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DeWine should get rid of the COVID-19 curfew

We are glad to see Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision to relax the Ohio COVID-19 curfew by one hour, but we’ll be even more pleased when it goes away completely.

That’s because the curfew has produced little to no measurable results in combating the spread of COVID-19.

DeWine first announced Ohio’s curfew on Nov. 19 amid speculation that he was considering a second business shutdown similar to the one he ordered for the state in the spring. Since then, the curfew has been extended three times. It had been set to expire Saturday before DeWine’s most recent announcement to relax the curfew by an hour.

The curfew required so-called “nonessential” businesses to be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. Beginning Thursday, the curfew start time moved to 11 p.m. DeWine based his decision on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state. He apparently sees a trend in that number that he believes is linked to late-night visits to restaurants or bars.

According to his newly-enacted rule, DeWine promised to move the curfew to 11 p.m. if the state saw fewer than 3,500 COVID-19 hospitalizations for seven consecutive days.

Now he says if hospitalizations remain fewer than 3,000 for seven straight days, Ohioans will be rewarded with a curfew at the witching hour of midnight. After two more weeks, if the number of hospitalizations remains below 2,500 for seven consecutive days, the curfew would be lifted. The governor threatens, however, if hospitalizations rise again, the curfew could be reimposed.

Sadly, bars and other mostly small businesses deemed “nonessential” are suffering the most from these arbitrary benchmark assignments. In fact, these small businesses are most essential to their owners, many of whom are area residents, to the many servers, cooks and other employees who count on business to pay the rent and to the good of our economy in general.

As health experts repeatedly have stated, masks, social distancing and hand washing are the most effective ways to combat COVID-19 and hold its spread at bay. Nowhere in those rules does it indicate this virus spreads more readily after 10 p.m.

If the same rules are followed both day and night, reasonable people would see that the need for a curfew is futile.

Here are some Ohio Department of Health statistics to consider.

On Nov. 19, the day the curfew was enacted, Ohio had reported 9,248 COVID-19 cases. The cumulative total that day was 382,365.

One month later, on Dec. 19, that cumulative total had nearly doubled to 646,301, despite the curfew.

Another month later, on Jan. 19, case totals continued to soar, reaching 852,309.

Regarding COVID-19 hospitalizations, cumulative totals numbered 23,373 on Nov. 19, the day the curfew was first enacted. One month later, on Dec. 19, that number had reached 32,909. After another month had passed, the number reached 40,087.

Based on these case and hospitalization trends, how, then, can the curfew be defended as necessary or effective?

Many health experts would argue it is much more likely that the family gatherings and holiday travel in November and December contributed to burgeoning COVID-19 case numbers.

Indeed, if businesses follow the rules by limiting the number of customers, keeping patrons seated, socially distanced and masked up — during the day or in the late evening — why are they still being punished?

We challenge the governor to show us how this curfew has helped slow the spread of this horrible virus, because Ohio businesses certainly can show us how badly it has hurt their livelihoods.

It’s time to do away with this ineffective curfew and instead focus on following the other rules that are more meaningful in the control of this virus but that don’t significantly affect the livelihoods of those who rely on all business — including the sales that come after dark.

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