COLUMBUS — Despite pleas from the state’s restaurants and bars, as well as other businesses, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine extended the state’s curfew, saying the state’s COVID-19 numbers continue to be too high to allow businesses to be open beyond 10 p.m.

DeWine, at his twice-weekly COVID-19 press conference, did not release details of the extension for the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, which was set to expire Saturday.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to have to stay,” DeWine said. “Look, we would love to get rid of it. The next step would maybe take it to 11 o’clock, but we’re not there yet.”

When DeWine created the curfew in early November, he had support from the Ohio Restaurant Association. At that time, the restrictions were to last three weeks, and the ORA supported the move as an alternative to a complete business shutdown.

DeWine’s extension will stretch the curfew from the original three weeks to likely at least three months.

“Our industry has suffered the most from the pandemic and restrictions. Dropping the curfew will enable restaurants to begin to recover during what is already an incredibly challenging time of year – winter and the first quarter – while the rollout of the vaccine addresses health care and nursing home locations where risk is the greatest,” Ohio Restaurant Association President and CEO John Barker said.

The curfew does not apply to people going to or from work, getting groceries or a carryout meal, going to the hospital or in an emergency situation. Drive-thru and delivery retail business can continue after 10 p.m. Grocery stores and pharmacies are not forced to close.

The restaurant group pointed to a Wall Street Journal report that showed in New York state, 74% of COVID transmissions were due to private gatherings compared to just 1.4% linked to bars and restaurants, according to contract tracing data.

“The vast majority of restaurants, caterers, bars and breweries are operating safely and following Dine Safe Ohio requirements,” Barker said.

By J.D. Davidson

The Center Square