DeWine Wary of Coronavirus Spread as Labor Day Approaches

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine said during his regular briefing Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence and other staffers harbor “grave concerns” about the spread of the coronavirus during the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

During the call Monday with governors from across the country, Pence urged them to appeal to their states regarding safety precautions during the long holiday weekend.

“We can get together and have fun, but we have to be very, very careful,” DeWine said. He said it’s clear that additional social activity with large gatherings during the holidays undoubtedly results in more cases across the state.

Ohio witnessed a significant spread of the virus following the Fourth of July weekend, he said. By mid-July, the state averaged about 1,500 new cases per day.

DeWine’s concerns were grounded in Tuesday’s report that showed 1,453 new coronavirus cases recorded over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the end of July, the governor said. 

The recent rise in coronavirus cases across the state is likely the result of students heading back to classrooms for the academic year, especially at colleges and universities, DeWine noted.

“This is a stark reminder that the virus is not going away,” DeWine said. “We think a significant part of this is caused by our colleges going back as well as our grade schools and high schools.”

Still, DeWine applauded testing measures put in place at universities and their attempts to curtail the spread, which he noted is inevitable given the lifestyles of college and high school students.

“We have to do everything we can to protect each other while trying to safely do things we want to do,” he remarked.

He noted that the state’s K-12 school systems and universities planned ahead for this school year, and lauded them for “doing a very, very good job.”

DeWine said that Youngstown’s two Catholic high schools – Ursuline High School and Cardinal Mooney High School – last week adopted measures in which tickets to last week’s football games were made available only to family members of the players, band, coaches and cheerleaders.

The governor also noted he spoke yesterday with Russia Local Schools superintendent Steve Rose, who informed him that the grades seven through 12 have pivoted to remote learning to at least Sept. 14 after a student tested positive for the virus. The Russia school district is located in a rural section of western Ohio.

“What this means is that they’re doing their job, they’re following their protocol, they’re following their plan,” DeWine said.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also announced that the state has awarded $55 million through the K-12 Broadband Connectivity Grant program to 951 applications across Ohio. The program is appropriated through the federal coronavirus relief bill. 

The program funds internet access for students and the program received $83 million worth of requests, Husted said. Those that requested $20,000 or less would receive the full amount. Those schools that requested over that limit would be funded $20,000 and 60% of the additional ask, he said.

More than 121,000 students will have high-speed internet access to their homes while more than 645,000 students have access to high-speed internet through the creation of public wireless and mobile Wi-Fi service. 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.