Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday lifted some remnants of the stay-at-home orders to permit Ohioans to travel without restriction amid the flattened-but-ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We are now moving from orders to strong recommendations. This is a new phase in our battle against the virus,” DeWine said of an “urgent health advisory” being labeled “Ohioans Protecting Ohioans.”
DeWine said some requirements and restrictions remain in place even after the state concluded that exceptions carved out to allow travel to more workplaces and stores had gutted large parts of the stay-at-home restrictions.
Travel had been allowed into or out of the state, but travelers entering Ohio with the intent to stay had been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days unless they were involved in critical infrastructure or health care.
Virus-precaution mandates on reopened businesses remain in effect, such as employees wearing face masks, frequent cleaning of workplaces and 6-foot social distancing among workers and customers.
And businesses and individuals still face a restriction on mass gatherings, which remain limited to 10 people or less, although DeWine said the number remains under review. Events that draw crowds will be among the last to receive the go-ahead to resume, the governor has said.
The governor said travel still is discouraged and warned older Ohioans and those with chronic health conditions to remain home as much as possible.
DeWine called on all other Ohioans to embrace a “sense of personal responsibility and accountability to others” in practicing virus precautions and still remaining in voluntary quarantine at home when they can.“Ohioans take care of Ohioans — that’s at the core of what we do,” DeWine said., adding social distancing has saved lives and depressed the curve of virus case growth — and now must be practiced to restore the economy.
DeWine said a reduction in the virus infection rate from one person infecting two others to a one-on-one ratio permits Ohioans to be freed from travel restrictions.
“Now is the time for our orders to reflect the reality of where we are,” DeWine said after the state moved this month to revive its virus-shattered economy and relax orders that closed nonessential businesses. The reopening permitted travel to retail stores and other services.
Local health departments retain the ability to impose restrictive orders affecting cities and counties if virus cases increase or other problems arise, DeWine said.
DeWine’s spokesman did not expect the advisory containing changes from stay-at-home orders to be released in writing prior to Wednesday. The document still must be signed by Ohio Health Director Amy Acton. She was ill and missed Tuesday’s briefing.
Asked about the science driving the decision to drop more public-health restrictions, DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the reopening of businesses, along with lessons learned at those that never closed, demonstrate more normalcy is possible without infections spiking.
“The most important variable is what Ohioans do over the next few weeks,” DeWine said. “Our ability to recover economically ... is tied to the whole issue about public safety and public health. If one goes down, the other goes down,” he said.
The governor said there would not be a virus briefing on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, analysis by The Dispatch finds a positive coronavirus test ultimately leads to death among 4 out of 10 Ohioans age 80 or older who contract COVID-19.
Vulnerable older Ohioans with COVID-19 continue to die at an alarming rate.
Of the 2,136 coronavirus cases among those age 80 or older through Monday, a total of 865 of those infected -- 40.5% -- have died. Slightly more than half of all statewide deaths are from that age group.
Underlying health conditions and the host of older Ohioans in nursing homes and long-term-care facilities with coronavirus outbreaks apparently have fueled the odds of infection and death among the elderly.
At-risk older Ohioans and those showing symptoms of the virus have been subjected to more testing than other age groups, likely reflecting higher infection rates.
Over the past three weeks, 50% of all new confirmed virus cases in Ohio have come from nursing homes. Since April 15 alone, there have been 674 reported deaths in long-term-care facilities.
State health officials reported 498 additional coronavirus cases and 63 more deaths on Tuesday. The governor called recent numbers “fairly flat.”
The daily numbers increased the total number of confirmed and probable coronavirus cases to 28,952 statewide while boosting the death toll to 1,720 since the first cases were confirmed in Ohio on March 9.
By the numbers
The following are the number of confirmed and suspected coronavirus cases and deaths in the Greater Akron region as reported by the Ohio Department of Health as of Tuesday.
Summit: 1,042 reported cases (14 new), including 113 deaths (one new), according to state data. At least 80 deaths involve long-term care patients, and 156 people remain hospitalized, Summit County Public Health reported.
Stark: 610 reported cases (15 new), including 79 deaths (two new).
Portage: 297 reported cases (one new), including 53 deaths (unchanged).
Medina: 229 reported cases (five new), including 18 deaths (unchanged).
Wayne: 206 reported cases (four new), including 49 deaths (1 new).
Holmes: 13 reported cases (unchanged), including one death (unchanged).
Ashland: 15 reported cases with no deaths (no new cases).
Tuscarawas: 272 reported cases (three new), including one death (unchanged).
Mahoning: 1,247 reported cases (21 new), 156 deaths (six new).
New cases and deaths were just reported in the past day and could be many days older.
Deaths per capita
Cases by county
Cases per capita by county