COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced several new and renewed orders Wednesday in a rare primetime address.
The address came on a day Ohio reported 5,874 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, the second-highest daily increase ever (only behind Tuesday’s report of 6,508.)
Ohio also reported 76 new deaths, 253 new hospitalizations and 36 new ICU admissions.
Testing has doubled since September while cases have increased fourfold.
Current hospitalizations have increased by 1,000 in just the last week. Current ICU admissions are three times what they were a month ago. Hospitals are as crowded as they would be at the height of flu season, according to DeWine.
“With this new wave of COVID-19, the onset of flu season, and an already-exhausted group of healthcare workers, there are serious concerns that there won’t be enough people to fully staff our healthcare facilities in the next few weeks,” said DeWine.
“If we don’t change this, Ohio won’t be able to provide appropriate care for COVID patients or for Ohioans who require other emergency care for things like accidents, strokes, and heart attacks. Hospitals will again be forced to postpone important, but less urgent, care.”
Seeking to slow the virus’s spread, DeWine reissued the state’s mask mandate with three new provisions Wednesday, including an enforcement provision and penalties for violations.
Each retail store in the state will be required to post a sign notifying patrons of the need to wear masks within the business. Each store will also be responsible for ensuring customers and employees comply.
Additionally, the governor announced a new retail compliance unit comprised of Bureau of Workers Compensation agents. The first violation will result in a written warning. A second violation will result in the closure of the store for 24 hours.
As the virus continues to spread in social events like banquets and receptions following weddings and funerals, the governor announced a new order he will sign in the coming days to place significant restrictions on social activities.
Under the new order, DeWine said, open congregate areas will no longer be allowed to be open. Everyone must be seated and masked unless they are actively consuming food or drinks, and dancing and games will be prohibited.
The governor warned restaurants, bars and fitness center will face closure if the spread of the virus does not slow. He said he will evaluate that decision one week from Thursday.
“If the current trend continues and cases keep increasing, we will be forced to make these closures,” said the governor. “I am very well aware of the burden this will place on employees and owners, but these are places where it is difficult or impossible to maintain mask-wearing, which we know now is the chief way of slowing this virus.”
DeWine also said if cases do not decline by January, Ohio’s colleges and universities will be forced to remain fully virtual as classes resume.
Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Ohio Health, explained Tuesday the increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are unprecedented.
While Ohio is better equipped with PPE now than in March, he said the rise in cases leads to increasing demand for hospital staffing.
Officials said on Monday hospital staffs are already exhausted and being stretched thin.
If the COVID-19 spread doesn’t get under control, Vanderhoff explained this would result in a lack of care for the acutely ill.
Health officials said Ohioans must get back to the basic principles.
Wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands, and not expanding personal bubbles will help bring the COVID-19 spread under control, the officials stated.
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