Gov. DeWine lifts statewide curfew as hospitalization numbers fall


Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announces the lifting of the pandemic-inspired curfew during a Thursday afternoon press conference in Columbus.

By Sara Coy

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine lifted the pandemic-inspired curfew for bars and restaurants Thursday, citing the declining number of COVID-related hospitalizations over the previous seven days. 

“We indicated two weeks ago if we got under 2,500 (hospitalizations per day) for seven days, we would take the curfew off,” DeWine said in a 2 p.m. press conference. “The curfew expired today at noon. We may eventually have to put curfew back on, but hopefully not.”

As of Feb. 11, 1,862 Ohioans were hospitalized due to COVID-19, according to the state health department. DeWine and the state’s medical experts said to continue in the right direction, people must keep wearing masks and getting the COVID vaccine when it becomes available to them. 

In Butler County, cases also continued to decrease, with an average of 141 confirmed cases per day, according to the Butler County COVID-19 Dashboard

In an interview on NBC’s “Today” show  Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, president Biden’s chief medical advisor and the chief of immunology at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said he expects an “open season” for the vaccine starting in April, meaning anyone who wants it should be able to get it.

In the meantime, Ohio is still in Phase 1B of its vaccine rollout plan. Phase 1B allows for K-12 teachers and people 65 and older to make appointments for vaccinations.

Additionally, DeWine said, “Ohioans with certain conditions they were born with or those who were diagnosed in childhood and carried into adulthood, will be able to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines.” These people will be eligible for vaccination beginning Monday, Feb. 15, regardless of their age.

This week, Ohio received 223,025 doses of vaccine from its providers, and next week will see a similar amount, DeWine said in his press conference. 

“This week we see Rite Aid will start doing vaccinations in 164 of its stores and Kroger will expand to all 194 of its stores in Ohio,” DeWine said.

DeWine said the large decrease in cases in nursing homes is likely a big factor to the lowered hospitalization rates. 

“One (reason for fewer hospitalizations) is the lowering of cases overall, but another is that we really got the fire down in the nursing homes,”  DeWine said. “Almost half the deaths have come out of the nursing homes so almost half of the hospitalizations probably came out of the nursing homes as well.”

New variants of the virus have continued to be discovered and are claimed to be more deadly, but according to the CDC, more research will need to be done to confirm this claim. As of now, it appears the antibodies generated from the current vaccinations recognize these variants.

Ohio Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, said during the governor’s press conference that current studies in the laboratory show that those that have the most serious cases of the variants have appeared to have great antibody responses. 

“What we need to think about is that the virus is becoming more contagious because it just takes less of it to make us sick, but our masks and distancing still work very, very well,” Vanderhoff said.

He also reminded Ohioans that it is important to wear masks with two layers and a snug fit. Fauci has also spoken out on the benefits of wearing a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask for extra protection.

For business owners in Oxford, the lifting of the curfew is the first step back to normal life. The curfew originally was set from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Two weeks ago, as hospitalizations began to decline, it was moved to 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Many of the local bars see their busiest hours between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. and the elimination of the curfew allows that to be a reality again.

Mark Johnson, general manager of Skipper’s Pub & Top Deck, 121 E. High St, said he expects business to increase but he is not yet sure how much.

“It’s kind of hard to say how things will change as we have never done this before,” Johnson said Thursday. “We are still at limited capacity and masks are still required, but obviously business will increase being open 3.5 more hours.” 

Oxford Police Lt. Lara Fening, said police, too, are waiting to see what the new normal is. 

“There’s a lot of variables we have no control over,” Fening said. “We are prepared for it to be busy whether it’s early or late but we’re definitely going to gauge the next couple of weekends to see how we should be staffing for the next couple months.”

Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said the city will continue enforcing things the way they have been and adjust staffing schedules as needed for first responders and other front line workers.

“I think from a business perspective it would be good for our business owners to get back to a sense of normalcy,” Greene said.