Editorial: State governments must act on rising coronavirus cases in coming weeks

The coronavirus is draining Ohio.

 According to the Institute For Health Metrics and Evaluation, in Ohio, the need for hospital beds is rising, the Intensive Care Units are full, and the number of deaths in the state will more than double by April 1, 2021, exceeding 16,000. With such grim predictions and a lack of leadership from the federal government, it is crucial that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine focuses on damage control by mandating another state-wide lockdown to protect Ohioans.

Initially, Gov. DeWine’s response to coronavirus outbreaks in Ohio was strong; the Washington Post reports that DeWine shut down schools, bars and restaurants shortly after the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Ohio in March of 2020. Although this response was effective in slowing down the spread of coronavirus, DeWine hasn’t brought the same energy to the recent surge. According to the Ohio Department of Health, beyond mandating that all Ohioans over the age of 10 wear masks, DeWine has only made suggestions on COVID-19-related restrictions. 

The rise in coronavirus cases in Ohio has depleted hospital capacity, with the Ohio Department of Health reporting 29,233 hospitalizations and 4,903 ICU admissions to date. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the number of ICU patients exceeded the number of beds on Sunday, November 29, and the gap between the two is only getting wider. Shutting the state down would greatly slow the admission of ICU patients, giving overwhelmed doctors and nurses a chance to get caught up.

Beyond the problem of hospitalizations is the plain fact that COVID-19 is spreading at a remarkable speed. The Ohio Department of Health reports that over the span of 21 days, an average of 9,408 coronavirus cases are confirmed, as well as 351 hospitalizations and 63 deaths, while numbers are only predicted to rise in the near future. Trusting Ohioans to wear their masks and stay apart for the sake of their neighbors has proven unsuccessful, so it is time for the government to step in. 

The notion of shutting down businesses and schools makes many uneasy, and for good reason: small business owners still need to make a living and those who cannot work from home need childcare. Because of this, the legislature should pass more stimulus bills to provide aid to those who need it, as nobody should have to choose between exposing themselves to a deadly virus and being able to pay their bills or taking care of their children. Individuals who are forced to stay home with their children should receive financial support from the government, as they are still doing a job.

The COVID-19 outbreak has raised many questions about personal liberties and what counts as an infringement upon these liberties by the government, but this is but a thinly-veiled attempt from those who haven’t been complying with safety protocols to dodge responsibility. If now isn’t an appropriate time for the government to step in, then when is?