Coronavirus: DeWine warns bars that violate social distancing rules

While most bars and restaurants followed new social distancing requirements over the weekend, others packed their patios with customers, drawing a stern warning from Gov. Mike DeWine.

“What we saw in some bars this weekend, pictures that made national news, we saw in some places customers were not following the rules and people running the bar were not taking responsibility. Both have to do that,” DeWine said on Monday.

The statewide public health order regarding bars and restaurants requires six feet of social distancing between workers and customers and mandates that patrons may only consume food and alcohol while seated.

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“We are marshaling all the resources at our disposal and summoning a large contingent of law enforcement and health officials from across state agencies and from our local communities,” DeWine said.

The Ohio Investigative Unit, which has statewide jurisdiction over all liquor permitholders, will coordinate the enforcement effort, which may include criminal actions, administrative citations and liquor license revocations. Individual customers could also be ticketed, the governor said.

Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County did not record any violations at area restaurants or bars, an official said.

DeWine said other local health departments issued citations, though he did not have specifics.

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The Ohio Investigative Unit issued citations to three bars — one each in Columbus, Bascom in Stark County and Medway. Agents did not witness infractions during other compliance checks, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

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The Ohio Department of Health on Monday reported 26,646 confirmed cases, plus 1,808 probable cases; 4,998 hospitalizations; 1,504 deaths, plus 153 attributed to probable cases.

One in five coronavirus cases statewide are linked to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which conducted comprehensive testing of inmates at two prisons with outbreaks. Ohio DRC decided to discontinue the comprehensive testing, despite a new outbreak erupting at Belmont Correctional Institution in eastern Ohio where there are 95 current cases among inmates and 73 cases among staff.

DRC officials confirmed the death of a third staff member: Nurse Bernard Atta, 61, of Galena, worked at the Correctional Reception Center and died Sunday of complications related to COVID-19. Atta had worked at CRC since December 2012.

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“This is a vicious disease and not everyone is making it through,” said DRC Director Annette Chambers Smith. She said DRC is now focused on treating patients, quarantining new arrivals and testing based on symptoms, age or health of the prisoner or other conditions.

Analysis by The Marshall Project, a prison and criminal justice watchdog group, found that Ohio has the most coronavirus cases per prisoner nationwide. The project noted that Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan — all with the highest rates — are states that conducted aggressive coronavirus testing.

Ohio ranks third in total number of coronavirus deaths in state prisons, behind Michigan and the federal prison system, the project reported.

ACLU of Ohio and Policy Matters Ohio are asking DeWine to release more state prisoners to ease overcrowding during the pandemic.

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Last week, DeWine’s administration announced reopening dates for childcare, campgrounds, low- and non-contact sports leagues, pools, gyms, horse racing and more.

On Thursday, restaurants and bars will be permitted to resume indoor dining as long as they follow multiple safety measures and social distancing.


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