COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – While cases of the COVID-19 virus are surging in Ohio and across the country, the Ohio Governor’s office isn’t expecting to give another order to close businesses as it did in March, according to Gov. Mike DeWine’s Spokesman Dan Tierney.
“The governor has said we are not anticipating a specific order at this time,” Tierney told WDTN.com on Monday.
Tierney said the state is actively monitoring data from Ohio and other states as it continues to fight the epidemic. He said the state’s priorities are to save lives, keep intensive care units and emergency rooms from being flooded with patients and keep businesses open after many suffered financial losses earlier in the year due to the lockdown. This is why the state continues to advise people to follow guidelines.
“The governor heard from a lot of business who said we can shut down briefly but we can’t do it again a few months later,” Tierney said. “We need to keep ourselves healthy and by doing that we can help the business community.”
He said the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, which ranks each of Ohio’s 88 counties from Level I to IV by data from each county, was built to supplement state guidelines and help avoid another possible lockdown. The system, along with efforts made during the first months of the outbreak, were designed to keep Ohio open and avoid another lockdown.
“The virus was emerging and we needed to take action,” Tierney said. “We needed to keep people safe and healthy as well as build up critical systems like testing capacity and contact tracing systems to learn how it spread.
“We were able to re-open in a gradual fashion with guidelines. We have pretty much given every business in Ohio the ability to re-open. We are at a point where we need to maintain good judgment.”
Who can order a lockdown?
Laurie Fox, the Public Information Officer for the Greene County Health Department, said only the governor’s office can give a lockdown order. She also said local health departments can make recommendations, cite businesses for violations and monitor information, but any ordinances involving masks have to come from local governments.
“(A lockdown) would have to come from the governor’s office,” Fox said. “The cities, townships and villages can mandate mask use – they do have that power. The counties do not.”
Governors can mandate mask use as well. As of Monday, July 6, 21 states have mandated masks across the country including Ohio neighbors Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
Fox said the four-level state health advisory system works based on seven indicators is a tool for the public to use when knowing how much caution it should use when in a specific county. Greene County, which is currently at Level II, has met two or three of the seven indicators:
- New cases per capita
- Sustained increase in new cases
- Proportion of new cases not congregate cases
- Sustained emergency room visits
- Sustained increase in outpatient visits
- Sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions
- Intensive Care Unit bed occupancy
The system is still being developed. It will soon consider contact tracing, the number of tests per capita in each county and the number of positive tests that are being reported.
“We are going to have to live through this for the foreseeable future,” Tierney said. “The idea is to save live, the primary purpose is to save lives. We can do that if we do what we have to do to keep numbers low. Ohio lives are the guiding focus of the administration.”
Tierney said the guidelines issued during the beginning of the outbreak – wearing masks in public, social distancing, staying at home as much as possible and only going out for essentials – are still the protocols people in the state should be following.
To find the status of COVID-19 spread in your county, visit the Ohio Department of Health’s website.
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