Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is extending the statewide 10pm to 5am curfew through the end of the year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to build steam.
Alison Holm has more.
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DeWine says there are indications that the curfew ordered three weeks ago is helping to slow the rate of increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Ohio, but the numbers are still going up at an alarming rate. Health officials reported over 11,700 new cases Thursday afternoon, and 111 new deaths attributed to COVID-19. There were 452 new admissions to hospitals, 31 to intensive care units. And there are a record 5,110 Ohioans currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
State medical director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says hospitals are reaching dangerous levels, and hitting another of the of the indicators the CDC uses measure the severity of the pandemic. One in four hospital patients has been admitted because of COVID-19. In ICU units the number is more than one in three.
"There is so much COVID in that busy ICU that there may not be room for patients with other conditions. When we look at the map and see that five of our eight regions are tripping indicator seven - and the other three are very close - we know they're very busy with critical levels of COVID-19."
Statewide hospital occupancy is already at 75%, and ICU occupancy is over 80%. Hospitalizations lag behind new cases, so the continued rise in new cases will lead to even more strain on the hospitals in the coming days and weeks. Governor DeWine calls the next three weeks the most important in the pandemic.
"We're heading into the biggest holiday season of the year. We're doing this while riding the biggest wave of COVID-19 that we've had so far. What each of us does in the next 21 days is really going to set us on the path - good or bad - for the next year. We cannot afford, on the very eve of a safe and effective vaccination, to further overwhelm our hospitals and health care providers with a holiday tsunami."
DeWine is extending the statewide curfew through January 2, although variances have been issued for four major sporting events: the Columbus Crew MLS championship game on Saturday, Bengals and Browns games on Monday, and the anticipated conference championship game at the university of Cincinnati.
"These events have run consistently with the protocols that we are asking all Ohioans to follow. Spectatorsd at these events wear a mask, they are socially distanced... There's added safety that they are in a large venue, and that they are held outside."
Now that the Food and Drug Administration has officially approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, Dewine says three hospitals are prepared to become staging points for distribution of the shots, which are expected to arrive early next week. But it may be months before the state is able to vaccinate a significant percentage of the population.
In the meantime DeWine asked Ohioans to continue to follow the guidelines of masks, handwashing, and staying at home - with the additional holiday advisories to "celebrate small", keep interactions with others short, and don't eat or drink with those outside your family bubble.