(The Center Square) — As Ohio COVID-19 positive cases continue to rise, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday it will be up to the people if the state remains open as the winter months approach.
DeWine, who issued a statewide stay-at-home order in the spring that closed schools and businesses deemed non-essential, would not commit to keeping the state open or closing it at his twice-weekly news conference.
Instead, he left it up to Ohioans.
“What really is at stake is all the things we value,” DeWine said. “It’s not that if I shut the state down or if I don’t shut the state down. If the outbreak is so bad where you can’t put teachers in the classroom, then students won’t be back in school. If it’s so bad people will become more worried about going out.”
Ohio surpassed 5,000 deaths of people who tested positive for COVID-19, and over the past week, the state has averaged nearly 500 more positive cases a day than it averaged two weeks ago. DeWine said many of the deaths occurred in people over the age of 70 and the majority of those who died but didn’t meet that age threshold had other health issues.
DeWine said he thinks it will get worse before it gets better. He said there is a potential for lockdowns but thinks the market will control businesses.
“The more likely thing to happen is the market itself will react,” DeWine said. “That’s what’s going to happen. This virus will have an impact right on the ground at the local level. We control this. This is in our collective hands. If we’re correct that so much of this is coming from people who are with family or friends, government has very little way to impact that.”
The state has yet to tap into its $2.7 billion rainy day fund to meet the economic challenges caused by the earlier shutdown or the ongoing limitations for some businesses that lead to reduced government revenue.
Despite state employee hiring freezes and other cuts, DeWine expects that rainy day money to be used over the next couple of years.
“It’s going to enable us to provide basic services, starting with education, to citizens of Ohio. We’ve taken a conservative approach,” DeWine said. “I think we’re going to rebound fast, but we don’t know for sure. We believe we will spend all this money over the next few years. It’s there to do what a rainy day fund is supposed to do.”
The state still has $900 remaining in federal CARES Act funding, and DeWine said he plans to have money available to help local performing arts theaters, as well as other nonprofit organizations and small businesses.
An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.