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White House task force requests Ohio bars, restaurants close early to slow coronavirus spread

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jul 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-25 23:17:42-04

CLEVELAND — Cleveland and Columbus are now considered two of 11 cities across the country as possible coronavirus hotspots, according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The full list also includes Baltimore, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

“We have seven states right now with less than 2% test positivity. Ohio is almost to seven so this is why we’re concerned, and this is why we believe that if every Ohioan acts now they can change the course of this pandemic,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Dr. Birx met with Gov. Mike DeWine, health officials and city mayors Saturday morning at the Ohio statehouse in a three-hour closed-door meeting.

News 5 was told she applauded the statewide masks mandate put in place, but said more needs to be done, suggesting bars and restaurants need to close earlier to avoid overwhelming hospitals across the state with a surge of COVID-19 cases. Dr. Birx said evidence shows bars and nightclubs may be to blame for outbreaks locally, especially in those under 35 who are asymptomatic.

“It is something about drinking, not wearing a mask and being close to people particularly indoors that is actively spreading this virus,” she explained.

Columbus is already set to put a type of curfew in place starting Tuesday, July 28. The city’s mayor and public health commissioner announced Saturday that bars, nightclubs and restaurants will be required to close at 11 p.m. Legislation is expected to be advanced Monday, July 27 to place restrictions on the hours of operations pending city council approval.

“Our city, like many others across the country, are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and there is clear evidence of community spread, especially indoors in places where groups are gathering,” said Mayor Ginther. “We’re also seeing a clear increase among younger people and we know that bars and nightclubs have been the source of outbreaks locally. We need to take steps now to help stop the spread of the virus. We all need to do better for the health and safety of our neighbors.”

While the future of Cleveland’s bars and restaurants remains up in the air, Dr. Birx and other officials urging everyone to comply by wearing masks, practice social distancing and stay away from mass gatherings.