Updated: 4:52 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020
The coronavirus continues to spread into Ohio’s rural areas, as the state prepares to send out a new round of federal relief to people who have lost jobs during the pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday in a wide-ranging news conference on COVID-19.
The governor hopes to begin sending out an additional $300 per week in federal unemployment funds beginning in mid-to-late September, he said. DeWine spoke Monday with U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia about the assistance.
“I’ve made it clear to my team, we need to get this out just as absolutely quickly as we can,” DeWine said. “People are hurting. People need it.”
Though Lt. Gov. Jon Husted noted Ohio’s economy is slowly improving, with unemployment down to 8.9 percent from a pandemic peak of 17 percent.
“We’re on the road to recovery, economically speaking,” Husted said.
Darke, Mercer and Jackson counties recorded the highest new COVID-19 case load per 100,000 residents, according to the Ohio Department of Health's most recent data, DeWine said. All three counties have populations around 50,000 or less, and the numbers of new cases over the past two weeks are in the double digits.
Statewide, Ohio is approaching what DeWine called a “grim statistic” of 4,000 confirmed or probable COVID-19 deaths. Ohio reported 844 new COVID-19 cases, continuing a general decrease in daily new cases since a high of 1,733 on July 30. More than 2 million coronavirus tests have been administered across the state since the pandemic began.
DeWine spoke with two county health officials during the press conference, including Medina County Health Commissioner Krista Wasowski. She urged Ohioans to stay home while awaiting COVID-19 test results.
“Some of our young adults, in particular, are having mild symptoms,” Wasowski said. “It seems like a cold to them, and so they think it’s okay to maybe go to sporting events, or to work, or to other social gatherings. And then, once their tests are coming back, sometimes they’re surprised that they have COVID and that they’ve infected other people.”
Health officials are seeing more cases in the northern part of Medina County, closer to the Cleveland metropolitan area, she said.
DeWine also walked through last week’s order regulating the number of spectators at athletic events, particularly school and youth sports. The goal of the order is to limit spectators to family members of home and away players or band members, he said.
Spectators at outdoor sports are limited to 1,500 or 15 percent of the venue’s permanent seated capacity, whichever is lower, he said. Indoor sports are limited to the lesser of 300 people or 15 percent of seated capacity.
Athletic event organizers can ask local and state health departments to approve spectator plans that vary from state guidelines, he said. Spectators must wear masks and stay physically distant, according to the order.
Early in the news conference, DeWine broke from COVID-19 reports to highlight recent headlines about gun violence across Ohio. He called on lawmakers to pass his “Strong Ohio” gun legislation package, which state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) introduced last October.
DeWine on Tuesday also defended his handling of the pandemic against criticism from a small number of conservative lawmakers in his own party who are now calling for his impeachment. The state’s COVID-19 restrictions served the goal preserving lives, he said.
“The sacrifices we’re talking about now, yes, they are sacrifices,” he said. “But the long-term gain is not just we’ve saved lives. The long-term gain is we don’t destroy our economy.”