Gov. Mike DeWine plans to extend curfew; announces new testing program

Gov. Mike DeWine’s 10 pm curfew order designed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus was due to expire this weekend but now it will be extended, perhaps for at least another month.

At his briefing Thursday DeWine said the time is not right to stop the curfew. “Unfortunately it’s going to have to stay. You see where the numbers are, down for a few days, but we’re still at a very, very high level,” DeWine said.

Data released during his briefing showed 7,271 new cases reported in the last 24 hours and 109 deaths in that same time period. “We’ll try to manage this. We would love to get rid of it,” DeWine said. The curfew began November 19 and was extended December 11.

Technically the curfew covers people, not places or businesses, but the real impact is on businesses that are traditionally open late like bars and restaurants.

DeWine said originally he had been advised by the Trump administration to shut down bars and restaurants completely to limit transmission of the coronavirus. Instead, he ordered the curfew. “We did this as a compromise. The best experts said to close bars, to close restaurants. We had state after state did that during the pandemic,” DeWine said.

At some point in the future, DeWine said, he will consider changing the curfew to reduce the impact on businesses. He mentioned the possibility of moving it to 11 pm, but he did not indicate when that might happen.

>> Coronavirus: Pfizer vaccine effective against 16 mutations found in variants, preliminary study says

>> Miami Valley vaccine timeline: How and when to get yours

The following announcements were made at DeWine’s press conference:

  • The state has announced that it has agreed to purchase 2 million at-home coronavirus tests through a partnership with Abbott and eMed. The BinaxNow COVID-19 rapid antigen test can give results in about 15 minutes. These will be distributed to local health departments, who will decide how the tests are used in the community. It’s a $50 million investment by the state that will be paid for with CARES Act funds.
  • DeWine said cases are leveling off in the state, but are still higher than he’d like to see them and higher than where the state has been through most of the pandemic.
  • DeWine said ICU patients are improving with 1 of 4 patients in ICU having COVID-19.
  • The state is now seeing about 42.5% of the school districts having in-person learning five days a week, DeWine said.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said of the 1.4 million PUA unemployment claims, 796,000 were flagged for potential fraud. The state is sorting through those to verify that the money is going to the right people. PUA claims are filed for independent contractors and other people who may otherwise be ineligible for traditional unemployment.
  • DeWine said the state plans to extend the statewide curfew. “We just aren’t there yet,” the Governor said when asked if he will be lifting the curfew when it expires Saturday. “Unfortunately, it’s going to have to stay.” Specific details on the extension were not announced, however DeWine said he may consider pushing it back to 11 p.m. at some point.