COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As Ohio continues to post record highs of new COVID-19 cases, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday that even though he has no plans to close nonessential businesses or schools again, it would be irresponsible to say that he wouldn’t consider it.
“We don’t have any plans to do shutdowns, but no governor could stand up here during a pandemic and say under no circumstances will we shut something down,” DeWine said during his regular coronavirus briefing. “That wouldn’t be responsible, (but) we have no plans to shut anything down.”
Numbers released from the state Department of Health on Thursday show that 29 of 88 Ohio counties are at level 3, or red, on the public health advisory map for coronavirus spread. That covers 65% of the state’s population and includes Columbus and Franklin County.
In addition, 52 counties are showing a high incidence of spread, defined by the CDC as more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period. On Thursday, a record-high 2,178 new cases were recorded over 24 hours.
“When we look at these numbers, this is the worst situation Ohio has been in, and more Ohioans are vulnerable today than ever before because of how far the spread has gone,” he said.
Many public school districts in Central Ohio are working on plans for returning some of their students to the classroom after starting the year with distance learning. The plans haven’t been without controversy in districts including Columbus, Dublin and Gahanna.
DeWine wants to see the schools continue to open up, but he expressed caution there, too.
“It’s pretty hard to keep schools open when you have massive spread of COVID in the community, no matter how good those schools are, those teachers are — superintendents, principals, no matter how hard they’re working,” he said. “If it’s out in the community, it’s going to get in the schools.”
DeWine compared the situation at schools with nursing homes, which had been shut down to most visitors until recently.
“Same with nursing homes,” he said, “it comes from the community.”
And he also warned Ohioans to carefully consider their holiday plans.
“People are talking about Thanksgiving. If you’re going to do it safely, you’re probably not going to do it exactly like you’ve done it before, but you’re going to do something,” DeWine said. “You can still have friends, but you’re going to have to do it differently if we’re going to be safe.”
But he also sounded a positive note that Ohioans have the ability to slow the spread of the virus.
“This spread of the virus in Ohio can be slowed down,” DeWine said. “It can be reversed. It’s totally within our hands to do it. We have the ability to do it. Distancing. Wearing a mask. When you’re inside, make sure you’re getting some air from the outside. Wash your hands. These are basic things.”