COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday that he will extend the statewide curfew as Ohio surpassed 7,000 virus-related deaths.
“We think the curfew, as well as the mask order and the enforcement, have slowed this rate of increase, but it is still at too high of a level,” DeWine said during a virus briefing.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 7,618 on Nov. 22 to 8,656 on Dec. 6, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.
One in every 193 people in Ohio tested positive for the virus in the past week.
The statewide curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., designated Nov. 17, is set to expire Thursday, but DeWine said it would have to be extended as health experts believe it is helping to marginally flatten the curve in Ohio. The measure would require businesses to be closed by 10 p.m.
It exempts pharmacies and groceries and restaurants offering takeout or delivery service. Previously, DeWine had ordered restaurants and bars to stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. The new order requires those businesses to close all dine-in and walk-in service by 10 p.m.
The order doesn’t apply to people who need to be at work, who have an emergency or need medical care, DeWine said.
The governor also pleaded once again with Congress to pass a relief package to states as benefits and eviction moratoriums are set to expire by the new year.
“I am just asking Congress to not leave town until they come back with a bill,” DeWine said. “Without that money coming in early on in the pandemic, we would have been in a really tough place.”
He added, “We are now in a very dangerous stage.”
Also Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio asked DeWine to include jail and prison inmates in the same vaccine priority category as vulnerable people living in group situations like nursing homes and psychiatric facilities.
“Ohio has a moral and legal obligation to protect the lives and health of the people that it has chosen to hold as prisoners,” said Freda Levenson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio.
On Friday, DeWine said prison inmates and guards wouldn't be among the first to receive the vaccine. Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the Ohio Health Department’s chief medical officer, explained that decision by saying the state's vaccine plan is “an attempt to prioritize among many groups in our society, all of whom are worthy of receiving this vaccine, on the basis of rated risk.”
Associated Press Writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report. Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.