Ohio Curfew Expires As Hospitalizations Decrease
Ohio has lifted its statewide curfew because the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has stayed below 2,500 for seven consecutive days, Gov. Mike DeWine announced at his coronavirus briefing Thursday. He said a curfew may be reinstated in the future, in particular if cases climb due to more contagious variants of the virus.
“It’s very important for us to continue to do what we've been doing,” he said. “Let's get the vaccine in our arms as quick as we can. But at the same time, we've got to continue to wear a mask. We've got to continue to keep the distancing.”
The governor attributed this decrease in part to the state’s emphasis on vaccinating residents in long-term care facilities. New cases in long-term care facilities dropped by 77% from the week of Nov. 29, 2020 to the week of Jan. 17, 2021, he said.
“When we really tamp the fire down in the nursing homes, those are people who many times end up in the hospital,” he said. “We've had over half the deaths come out of the nursing homes, so probably half the hospitalizations have come out of the nursing homes.”
On Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 721 newly reported deaths in the last 24 hours, but this includes about 650 deaths from earlier in the pandemic. The department announced Wednesday that about 4,000 COVID-19 deaths were not included in public state totals due to “process issues” that began in October. Those deaths are primarily from November and December of 2020, and the department expects newly reported deaths to be higher the next few days as it reconciles the numbers.
Over 200,000 vaccine doses, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines combined, came to the state of Ohio this week, and a similar number will come in next week, DeWine said. The governor said he hopes all Ohioans will be vaccinated by the summer, and he is confident that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be approved.
DeWine said he expects 50% of teachers and school staff to be vaccinated by the end of this weekend. The vaccination process for school personnel began late last month. Only about 5% of school districts are still fully remote.
Beginning Monday, vaccine eligibility will expand for Ohioans with certain medical conditions. Previously, only those with a developmental or intellectual disability and specific medical conditions were eligible. Local developmental disabilities boards have been scheduling vaccinations for that group. Now, Ohioans with the following conditions are eligible to receive the vaccine:
- Sickle cell anemia
- Down syndrome
- Cystic fibrosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Cerebral palsy
- Spina bifida
- People born with severe heart defects, requiring regular specialized medical care
- People with severe type 1 diabetes, who have been hospitalized for this in the past year
- Phenylketonuria (PKU), Tay-Sachs, and other rare, inherited metabolic disorders
- Epilepsy with continuing seizures, hydrocephaly, microcephaly and other severe neurological disorders
- Turner syndrome, fragile X syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome and other severe genetic disorders
- People with severe asthma, who have been hospitalized for this in the past year
- Alpha and beta thalassemia
- Solid organ transplant candidates and recipients
This newly eligible group can register with a provider of their choice. The state is not requiring any proof of eligibility for this group. Patients will be asked to confirm that they have a qualifying condition, but do not need to name the specific condition.
The state reported a close to 200% increase in unemployment claims filed last week compared to the week before, which is suspected to be the result of fraudulent activity. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said claims are being investigated for criminal activity, which will slow down the processing of legitimate claims.
“These are tax dollars… We don't want them to go out to criminals who are trying to defraud the American taxpayer,” he said. “The team also recognizes that there are a lot of people who are struggling who need this money, and if you have a legitimate claim, you will get every penny that you're eligible for.”
Last week Gov. DeWine announced the formation of a public-private partnership team at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services that is working to improve the unemployment system, including fraud detection.
“We have international gangsters, let's call them what they are. They're international gangsters who are moving in and preying on the situation,” DeWine said.