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Coronavirus In Ohio: DeWine Asks Liquor Commission To Halt Alcohol Sales After 10 P.M.

Citing a number of coronavirus outbreaks stemming from bars, Gov. Mike DeWine says he's asking Ohio Liquor Control Commission to consider an emergency rule prohibiting the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m.

The commission will consider the proposal at an emergency meeting on Friday morning. If approved, DeWine says he intends to make it take effect by Friday night. The proposal, which would cover all establishments that serve alcohol, would require drinks to be finished by 11 p.m.

"We do not want to shut down Ohio bars and restaurants," DeWine said. "That would be devastating to them. But we do have to take some action and see what kind of results we get."

Recently, Columbus City Council approved an ordinance that would shut down bars and restaurants after 10 p.m. However, after a lawsuit from local establishments, a Franklin County judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the measure from taking effect.

DeWine says that most bars are following health guidelines. However, he singled out Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus as places where state investigators found bars where no social distancing was taking place, and even where people were dancing in close quarters.

"Actors like this are, in fact, outliers," DeWine says.

The emergency rule will also expand a previous Liquor Control Commission rule that allows carryout drinks to be purchased along with a meal, something that wasn't possible before the pandemic. The new rule would up the number of drinks from two to three.

DeWine's announcement came on the day that Ohio recorded its highest-ever daily increase of COVID-19 cases. On Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health logged 1,733 new coronavirus cases and 20 more deaths, bringing its total to 89,626 cases and 3,177 deaths. 

The state has also seen the rate of hospitalizations and ICU admissions quicken, with 125 more hospitalizations and 21 more ICU admissions on Thursday.

Last week, DeWine issued a public health order requiring face masks in public across Ohio, after several weeks of mandating masks only in the most-affected counties. Enforcement of the order, which falls to the state and local health departments, has been inconsistent so far.

Under the state's updated Public Health Advisory System, the number of level three "red" counties has decreased to 10. At the same time, more counties have advanced from level one "yellow" to level two "orange," showing that the spread of COVID-19 is worsening.

DeWine says that urban counties with longer-standing mask mandates are seeing new COVID-19 cases slow significantly, but compliance remains low in rural counties.

"We've got to slow it down in the rural areas," DeWine says. "The good news is we're making some progress in the urban areas."

On Thursday, DeWine emphasized that the state's order banning mass gatherings of more than 10 people remains in place. He issued a number of additional recommendations, including limiting indoor gatherings at home, taking extra precautions at bars and restaurants, wear a mask at home if you're around high-risk people, and limit the number of people you interact with.

This story will be updated with more information.

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Gabe Rosenberg