DeWine defends possible restaurant closure; Ohio Restaurant Association says some won't survive

Virus Outbreak Ohio Unemployment
Posted at 1:12 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 13:12:18-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A day after Ohio Gov. Mike threatened a second shutdown that would close down restaurants and bars across the state, DeWine stood by his decision Thursday to go ahead with a plan to close establishments if COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate.

After his Wednesday primetime address, DeWine said Thursday that as expected, he received a lot of feedback and questions as to why he is targeting restaurants and bars when the increase in cases mostly comes from community spread, such as small gatherings, parties and other informal events.

DeWine said as the weather gets colder, more people are congregating in restaurants where masks are not worn all the time.

“It’s winter, late fall, getting a colder, not a bad day today, but people are moving, obviously moving inside. It makes any inside activity more difficult, more dangerous, potentially. What's unique about bars and restaurants as well as fitness centers is for a great deal of time, people are not wearing masks. We understand that you can't eat and have a mask on or drink. But we also know people are there, sometimes for a long time. And so it's the time — what we've learned is it's the time. It's not wearing the mask. This is what raises the risk, makes it much, much more, risky,” DeWine said.

Thursday’s number broke another one-day record with a growing trend continuing as the state topped 7,000 cases. The Ohio Department of Health also reported the second-highest day of hospital admissions, with 268 people getting admitted to the hospital in a 24-hour period.

RELATED: Another day, another record — 7,101 new daily COVID-19 cases in Ohio, 268 hospitalized

When looking at the data and trying to figure out ways to slow the spread of the virus, DeWine said his attention is drawn to places wherein certain situations, you can’t wear a mask, such as eating and drinking.

“From a logical approach, and we haven't said we're going to definitely do this, but what I wanted to do, I owed it to the people in the state, the people who run bars, people who run restaurants to say, look, we're looking at this and we're concerned about it,” DeWine said.

The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) released a statement Thursday following DeWine’s briefing to stress restaurants across the state have implemented rigorous health and safety measures, including plexiglass barriers, hand sanitizer stations and contactless payment options, to name a few.

John Barker, president and CEO of the ORA, strongly objected DeWine’s talk of a possible closure, and said the rise in cases isn’t within restaurants, but instead from unregulated events and gatherings.

“Any discussion of another restaurant closure is inconsistent with any science or contact tracing data that we have been provided, which continues to detail that the greatest risk of transmission, is occurring in unregulated private gatherings," Barker said. "Further restrictions would be devastating to an industry that employs 585,000 Ohioans at more than 23,000 locations, and is troubling, considering the extensive steps the industry has taken to effectively abide by orders, requirements and recommendations. Additionally, local communities would suffer consequences if restaurant locations are forced to close or lessen their hours and capacity significantly. Ohio’s cities and towns would be deeply affected economically, and local health care systems would continue to be overwhelmed because of unregulated, private gatherings. The trust and confidence of restaurant employees and customers remains our focus, and the Ohio restaurant and foodservice community will do what is needed to maintain it and remain open."

Barker said 58% of Ohio restaurants indicated they will be forced to close permanently if current conditions continue.

Responding to a question on whether Ohioans should take the one-week warning as a one-week notice that businesses will start to close next week, DeWine said the state is “facing a monumental crisis” and any decision to close restaurants and bars would not be made lightly.

“But we have to do some things to slow this down, so if we can get mask-wearing up this week, if we can see things move in our direction, yes, we can,” DeWine said.”We can postpone that. And we may never have to do it. But we've got to see movement. We've got to see something that indicates that we can slow this thing down because doing the same thing time after time is not going to slow it down.”

DeWine said he hopes Ohioans have considered what's at stake and he recognized most restaurants are operating responsibly, noting many factors, including hospitalizations and case levels, will play into his eventual decision on closures.

“We're not trying to pick on bars and restaurants. I've had members of my family who've been involved in owning bars and restaurants and, you know, these, these things are the last thing we want to do," DeWine said.

RELATED: Gov. DeWine updates mask, social gathering orders, threatens closures in 1 week if trends don't improve

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