Carry-out and delivery orders are still allowed (and encouraged), but gathering within these establishments will not be permitted after 9 p.m. Sunday, March 15

In a press conference this afternoon, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that he will be issuing an order to close all bars and restaurants at 9 p.m. tonight (Sunday, March 15). Although gathering at these establishments will not be allowed, DeWine said that carry-out orders, delivery orders and alcohol orders at the store or drive-through establishments will still be permitted.

The governor apologized for the impact this order will have on small business owners, in particular, and the employees of those establishments, but stressed that when orders like these are delayed, lives are put in danger. "We are dealing with life and death. To not take these actions today, people will die," he said.

Dr. Amy Acton, director of Ohio Department of Health, again laid out the case for why Ohio is taking such drastic actions. "This is the real thing. This is not a drill. This is a once in a lifetime pandemic, and everything we all do matters," said Acton, who later also instructed Ohioans to put partisan bickering aside when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We've got to take the politics out of this. This is a national emergency ... whether you believe me or not."

DeWine also said that daycare centers will close, though he did not indicate a day or time for the forthcoming order. "It will happen. ... It's coming," he said. "If you can conceivably keep your child out of daycare [now], please do so."

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also announced measures designed to help alleviate the financial burden this order will place on bar and restaurant owners and their employees, primarily through changes to Ohio’s unemployment law and state agency policies. Those quarantined by a health professional or by their employer are considered to be unemployed and will not be subject to requirements to actively seek work during the period of emergency. Ohio is also waiving the one-week waiting period before someone can receive unemployment. The state is waiving employer penalties for late reporting and payments for the next quarter, as well. 

Husted also said that establishments that previously purchased liquor in advance of St. Patrick's Day and other celebrations will be allowed to return the alcohol for a refund.

As of 2 p.m. today, Ohio has 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 300 currently being tested. Gov. DeWine began the press conference by showing a chart comparing the way St. Louis and Philadelphia dealt with the flu pandemic in 1918. "We want to be St. Louis," he said.

DeWine also said the current three-week school closure may very well last longer than three weeks.