CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Ohio and Kentucky have proceeded through the pandemic in near lockstep, with governors Mike DeWine and Andy Beshear rolling out similar policy prescriptions across similar timeframes.
For the moment, that appears no longer to be the case, as the governors take aim at different activities with their most recent statewide orders. Now folks on opposite sides of the Ohio River find themselves in alternate pandemic realities for the first time.
The governors moved in sync early on. Beshear declared a state of emergency just a week before DeWine in early March. Over the next eight days, they would each ban mass gatherings and close schools, bars, restaurants, recreation facilities, retail businesses and entertainment venues.
The Midwest partnership of April (remember it?) included both states. That Beshear opted in seemed confirmation his priorities were better aligned with DeWine’s than those of Kentucky’s more cavalier neighbors to the south.
Both reopenings would follow suit, with the governors announcing benchmarks and schedules the last week of April.
July’s surge brought an end to the lolling pandemic summer. Beshear went statewide with a mask mandate on July 9; DeWine gave county-specific mandates the same day but later relented to a statewide order July 23. After briefly receding from the microscope, once more their briefings were daily and must-watch.
The emphasis of late summer was devolution. The governors brought out color-coded state maps to indicate the severity of the virus’s spread in each county. Orders (more often recommendations) were no longer statewide but, as with DeWine’s initial mask mandate, county-specific.
That gets us, with a few fits and starts, to the fall surge. Cases are at all-time highs, hospitals are filling up and deaths are beginning to climb. Positivity rates barely merit mention, and those color-coded state maps are now just simply red.
The governors’ county-specific approach has proved unavailing, so in the last 10 days, with not a few apparent reservations, they went back to statewide actions.
DeWine announced an order Monday prohibiting gatherings of greater than 10 people and imposing restrictive rules on weddings and funerals.
The next day, he announced a three-week statewide curfew in effect 10 p.m.-5 a.m. People are expected to stay home unless their activity falls under a list of exemptions.
Retail business should be closed during those hours. Bars and restaurants, which formerly had to stop service an hour before they were ordered closed at 11 p.m., now must close at 10 p.m.
“With this order we are discouraging get-togethers and gatherings to minimize the spread of the virus while minimizing the economic impact of a complete shutdown,” DeWine said.
Previously DeWine warned about closing gyms, restaurants, bars and the like, but he has not followed through so far.
Beshear announced new rules Tuesday, including capacity limits in professional businesses and gyms. Indoor gatherings are limited to your current household plus one other household but cannot exceed eight people. Attendance is limited at weddings, funerals, indoor event spaces and theaters.
Kentucky’s governor also announced bars and restaurants will be fully closed to indoor service for three weeks. Delivery and to-go service may continue, along with outdoor dining.
He did not announce further restrictions on retail businesses. There is no curfew currently in effect in Kentucky.
Beshear acknowledged the different strategies in his briefings early this week, saying he had spoken with DeWine, compared notes and, for the first time, disagreed.
The strategies are different. DeWine places emphasis on spread of the virus in generalized nighttime activities. Conversely, Beshear’s approach is agnostic on timing but forceful on environment; Kentuckians won’t see the inside of a bar or restaurant until Dec. 14.
DeWine’s limit on gatherings only applies outside, according to the order. Beshear’s gatherings limit applies indoors, targeting the casual, informal get-togethers where both governors have said the virus spreads rampantly.
(Ohio’s 10-person mass gathering limit from July, a recommendation that covers private indoor gatherings, remains in effect.)
DeWine said, in the quote above and elsewhere, that his order will have a “minimized” effect on the economy. Beshear went the other direction in his press briefings. He spent two days laying out a rhetorical runway, then in presenting the orders acknowledged how difficult they would be on businesses.
Whose orders are more stringent might depend on whom you ask. The word “curfew” rings Orwellian in some ears, but Beshear’s track of taking the virus on where it spreads could prove more economically consequential.
Issues of compliance further muddy the waters. Kentucky’s order against private gatherings seems intended to preempt any unintended consequences of the indoor dining ban, but if the former fails, what good does the latter do?
In that light, Ohio’s order seems to factor in noncompliance and work best as it can around the edges. That is, conceivably the most DeWine thought he could ask of Ohioans is to stay home at night. The question is not whether people will comply with the curfew but whether it will work against the virus.
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