Coronavirus In Ohio: DeWine Warns Authorities Will Enforce Health Guidelines

May 18, 2020

As the state reopens, Gov. Mike DeWine insists, the success of the economy depends on whether Ohioans follow social distancing protocols.

At his press conference Monday, DeWine said he received images of overcrowded bars and restaurants after they were given the OK to reopen for outdoor seating on Friday.

"I've always tried to be blunt, straightforward, about everything that we are finding," DeWine said. "We try to share with you all the information that we have."

DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton warned residents there's a risk of COVID-19 cases increasing as the state reopens, but the severity of the risk will depend on whether Ohioans follow safety guidelines.

Last week, the state issued guidelines for businesses, such as wearing masks and only allowing a certain number of patrons in the building. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted pointed out that patrons must be seated, a requirement that allows for social distancing and discourages congregate gatherings where the disease can easily spread.

If people begin to neglect precautions, DeWine said it "jeopardizes our ability to move forward as a state."

"Our economic recovery in the state of Ohio is tied directly to how successful we are in preventing the spread of the coronavirus," DeWine said. "Stopping the spread, interrupting the spread of the coronavirus will determine how successful we are in reopening our economy."

There will be enforcement for the new social distancing policies. Law enforcement and staff from health departments will work with the Ohio Investigative Unit, part of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, to conduct safety checks and issue administrative citations which could result in revoking liquor licenses or possible criminal charges.

DeWine also advised owners that they should close if they can't handle a large influx of patrons.

Continuing To Spread

As of Monday, Ohio has 28,454 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,657 deaths. ODH recently updated its website to include information about the states' two veterans' homes in Sandusky and Georgetown. DeWine said there are no cases at the Georgetown facility, but the Sandusky facility has 23 residents who tested positive.

DeWine said most of the residents and employees at both facilities have been tested. The state also plans to perform mass testing at the Twin Valley Behavioral Health Hospital in Columbus, where one staff member has tested positive.

State Prisons director Annette Chambers-Smith also confirmed a staff member who worked as a nurse at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in Orient has passed away from the disease. They're the third state prison staff member to die from COVID-19. The state says 61 incarcerated adults have died, as well.

Chambers-Smith said the system is following a new plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the prison and implement mass testing. The new plan includes testing people who enter the prison system and quarantining them for 14 days.

“We’re looking for signs and symptoms and treating people," Chambers-Smith said. "We are testing when it is actionable; when someone can be quarantined safely."

She said 17% of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has been tested. Antibody testing has also been used in three prisons to help detect the spread of the disease.

Marion Correctional Facility was once the center of the outbreak, but now it's Belmont Correctional Institution, which has 95 inmates who are currently positive for the disease.

Throughout the prison system, more than 7,600 people have been tested and nearly 4,500 have tested positive.

DeWine said on Thursday, he'll announce more details about the Minority Health Strike Force. The group is working to create solutions as COVID-19 disproportionately affects minority groups, largely African Americans, according to ODH.