Coronavirus Pandemic State Gov. DeWine orders indefinite closure of sit-in restaurants and bars By Emily Crebs Posted on March 15, 2020 8 min read 0 0 83 The Cat's Corner bar on West Union Street. Photo by Sarah Horne Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced all sit-in only bars and restaurants in the state of Ohio will be closed indefinitely beginning at 9 p.m. on Sunday under an order from the Ohio Department of Health, marking another aggressive action by the state to prevent spreading of the novel coronavirus. DeWine encouraged restaurants to provide carry-out and delivery services so establishments can stay open while minimizing social contact between customers. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am,” he said about the order’s likely severe negative impact on small businesses. Ohio was the first state in the country to implement such a measure. Shortly after DeWine’s announcement, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made a similar executive action, according to The Hill. DeWine said he anticipated large gatherings in bars and restaurants for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, which would not follow recommended social distancing practices by disease prevention experts. DeWine on Thursday banned mass gatherings of 100 or more people across the state in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. He stressed that he is aware small businesses will struggle economically due to the order, but efforts will be made to preserve those businesses. “We don’t want everyone to stop buying restaurant food and start going to the grocery store,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. “That will create problems of its own.” Husted said the governor will sign an executive order to help alleviate those unemployed because of coronavirus and his related executive actions. The relief measures include extending paid leave benefits, classifying quarantined individuals as unemployed and waiving the one-week waiting period for individuals to obtain unemployment payments. More information for the employment relief measures can be found here. Husted also said that the state is working to allow small businesses and nonprofit organizations to qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million. The administration expected many restaurants and bars to have purchased alcoholic beverages for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. To mitigate the impact of the forced closures, restaurants and bars can return high-content alcohol to the supplying state agencies, Husted said. More information on the process of returning high-content alcohol can be found by contacting the Liquor Enterprise Service Center at [email protected] or by calling 877-812-0013. Husted said Ohio was taking the “first step in trying to account for disruption in business.” DeWine also clarified that he expects Ohio schools to remain closed for more than three weeks to prevent further spread of coronavirus. He further emphasized that projections of coronavirus infecting 40-50% of the Ohio population were made under the presumption no efforts to combat the spread of the virus were taken, which is not the case. DeWine began the press conference describing the difference in cities’ responses to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. He said that St. Louis responded within two days of the Spanish flu emerging in the city, which greatly limited the cases of the disease. Philadelphia, on the other hand, had a slower response which caused a much larger spike in flu cases. “We’ve consulted every expert we can find and read everything we can read,” DeWine said. DeWine reiterated that the “drastic” efforts being made in Ohio are intended to save lives. In the event that a large portion of the Ohio population is infected by coronavirus, not only will the virus take lives, but it will limit the medical treatment available to those with other illnesses and diseases, he said. Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health who’s been instrumental in implementing the state’s aggressive preventive measures, said that emergency workers such as nurses, doctors and firefighters also need to be kept healthy. Ohio had 36 cases of coronavirus in 11 counties with 350 cases pending investigation, as of 2 p.m. Sunday, according to Acton. She said, however, that the number of cases is misleading because of a lack of testing available relative to the rapid spread of the virus. “We will not have an accurate picture until we look back on history,” Acton said. Those infected with coronavirus don’t normally show symptoms for 5-6 days, according to Acton, but they are contagious during that time. She said that if an individual is infected with coronavirus, it could take two and a half weeks of having the virus before being hospitalized, and four to six weeks before death, in very severe cases. Ohio’s efforts are being made for the purpose of slowing the spread of coronavirus and decreasing the surge of patients in the hospital system, Acton said.