COLUMBUS — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered the closure of barbershops, beauty salons, tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons and spas during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Additionally, DeWine ordered the closure of 181 Bureau of Motor Vehicles registrar locations, leaving five open to handle commercial driver licenses only. A total of 52 of the state’s 52 driver’s examination locations are also being closed across the state. DeWine stated that he will ask the legislature to approve a grace period for drivers whose license would expire during the closure and will also the Ohio State Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies not to ticket those individuals.
Ohioans can still renew their vehicle registrations by mail or online at www.oplates.com, and BMV is currently working to provide other online service.
DeWine said he would not order the closure of libraries, instead leaving it up to each individual library to make that determination. Libraries in Meigs and Gallia Counties have closed.
DeWine also asked that businesses immediately begin to take the temperature of every employee every day before they come in to work. He also asked that employers and employees be aggressive with regard to cleaning of surfaces, having soap and hand sanitizer available and sending sick employees home.
“The temperature check is not perfect but is one way to screen out employees who may be sick,” said DeWine. “Businesses should do everything they can to monitor their workforce. We’re dead serious about employers taking temperatures. We’re expecting them to do this.”
As for a possible shutdown of all “non-essential” businesses, DeWine said that the state is not there yet, urging sick employees to stay home and for employers to take temperatures.
“Everyone is in this fight, but we don’t need to go into the battlefield, we simply need to stay home,” said Governor DeWine. “Social distancing is so critical, and many Ohioans are starting to understand its importance, but there are still some who don’t yet get it. This is a crisis that we have never seen in our lifetime, and everyone must recognize that their actions could have deadly consequences.”
With regard to the possibility of students not returning to physical classrooms this school year, DeWine said it is possible they will not go back and that the state is working with the schools to help continue educating students and making sure seniors are able to graduate.
DeWine said that the National Guard will be helping with the set up of tents at hospitals as has been requested. The tents could then be used for screenings or whatever needs the hospital may have.
Health Director Dr. Amy Acton stated in the press conference that testing remains limited in the state and nationwide, with only the most vulnerable likely to be tested.
Acton stated that the test itself is not important, but that those people who are showing symptoms should act like they have the virus, stay home and take precautions. Those with worsening symptoms should contact their doctors, and call before going to a doctor, hospital or emergency department.
“We will get to the other side of this and we will be right there with you,” said Acton, who called the fight against coronavirus a “war on an unseen enemy.”
Acton stated that Ohio had 88 confirmed cases as of 2 p.m., with the individuals ranging in age from 2 to 91.
While most healthy individuals and children will handle the virus well, said Acton, she encouraged parents to contact their child’s pediatrician with concerns and questions.
There are currently confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 19 Ohio counties including: Ashland (1), Belmont (2), Butler (8), Coshocton (2), Cuyahoga (38), Darke (1), Delaware (1), Franklin (7), Geauga (1), Huron (1), Lake (2), Lorain (6), Lucas (1), Mahoning (3), Medina (4), Stark (3), Summit (4), Trumbull (2),and Tuscarawas (1). Of these individuals, 26 are hospitalized.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted gave an update on the state’s unemployment numbers, stating that this week the state had 78,000 requests for unemployment. Two weeks ago there were about 6,500.
Also speaking on Wednesday was Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine. She gave tips for families as they spend time at home, including reading, cooking and making items, as well as using technology or other options to communicate with older family members. She said that recipes and other ideas would be posted on her social media platforms.
In other COVID-19 related matters, the Ohio Supreme Court wants all arguments and counterarguments filed by March 27 in a lawsuit filed by the state’s Democratic Party challenging the decision by Secretary of State Frank LaRose to move the primary to June 2. No time extensions will be granted. The Bernie Sanders campaign has not taken a position on Ohio Democrats’ push for all-mail voting, said state Rep. Mike Skindell, a state co-chair. Attorney General Dave Yost told Ohio’s 88 elections boards to contact LaRose’s office immediately if they are sued locally over the postponement, since a goal should be a single resolution by the state Supreme Court.
For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.