State closes K-12 schools for three weeks, bans large gatherings

R-H Staff

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s K-12 schools would close for three weeks at the end of the school day Monday to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday, March 12.

The governor said at a Statehouse news conference last Thursday, the action is a necessary step to try to minimize the pandemic’s effects in the state.

“We have to do this if we’re going to slow this down,” he said.

The administration also banned gatherings of 100 or more people — with several exceptions — after a fifth case of coronavirus was confirmed in Ohio.

Exceptions to the order last Thursday included airports, medical facilities, restaurants, shopping malls and religious services, Gov. DeWine said.

“We cannot be in close proximity to each other,” he said.

Gov. DeWine said orders further restricting visitation at nursing homes and state psychiatric hospitals also were forthcoming.

Attorney General Dave Yost held a social media press conference about an hour before the governor spoke to discuss how the ongoing state of emergency affects open-meetings law.

The attorney general noted a section of Revised Code allows government bodies to act “without regard to or compliance with time-consuming procedures and formalities” after the governor declares an emergency.

While a requirement that public officials meet in-person is not waived, allowing in-person attendance by the public is not required, Mr. Yost said.

“It’s our view that a public meeting could be conducted by electronic means for the public, as long as it’s properly noticed and folks can get on, whether you’re talking about something like Facebook Live, a government website or some other platform,” he said.

The attorney general said his office would be issuing guidance to local officials on the topic shortly and advised them to check with their county prosecutors or legal counsel before deviating from typical practices.

Monday, March 16, update: At press time, Gov. DeWine made an announcement closing all fitness centers, gyms, public recreation centers, bowling alleys, movie theaters, indoor water parks and indoor trampoline parks at the end of the day Monday. He also announced the mass gathering ban was now for more than 50 people. (The Trump administration, likewise, recommended the number be 10 people on Monday afternoon.) During the press conference, DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose reported they had proposed postponing in-person voting for the primary election to June 2, and a lawsuit will be filed in Franklin County to extend the election.

R-H Staff