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Ohio bans alcohol sales to Pa. residents amid virus outbreak

Gov. Mike DeWine’s message to Pennsylvania residents buying liquor in the Mahoning Valley and surrounding counties was direct: You’re cut off in Ohio.

Pennsylvania residents keep coming to the Valley to buy alcohol because liquor stores in the Keystone State are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeWine banned businesses in the area Monday from selling liquor to out-of-state residents.

DeWine said he received repeated complaints from police chiefs in Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana, Ashtabula, Jefferson and Belmont counties about Pennsylvanians coming across the border to buy liquor.

Pennsylvania closed liquor stores March 16; Ohio has allowed them to remain open — deeming them an essential business along with grocery stores, gas stations, and banks, among others.

“This (order) is necessary because of repeated instances of persons from Pennsylvania coming into these counties for the sole or main purpose of purchasing liquor,” DeWine said. “Any other time, we’d love to have visitors from Pennsylvania, but right now this creates an unacceptable public health issue.”

He added: “In compliance with the Ohio Department of Health’s orders designed to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the in-person sale of liquor in these counties will be restricted only to Ohioans.”

To buy in-person liquor in the six counties, a person needs to show a valid Ohio photo ID or a valid active-status military photo ID, he said.

“Sale of liquor to a person with a valid non-Ohio photo ID may only occur with additional information showing that the person resides in Ohio including mail with the person’s name and Ohio address on it, a bill with the person’s name and Ohio address on it, or a letter from an employer placing the person in Ohio as an essential employer,” DeWine said.

There’s also been a problem with West Virginia residents coming to some of those Ohio counties to purchase liquor, DeWine said, but he emphasized Pennsylvania as the bigger issue.

Laura Fauss, spokeswoman for the Columbiana County Health District, said: “Over the last few weeks, complaints received by our office about the lack of social distancing at our area liquor stores along the Pennsylvania border have been a regular occurrence. As we reached out to other health districts to coordinate a unified approach to this problem, we found the issue was not isolated to this county.”

Fauss said she was “grateful” the state “acknowledged the risk to our community and acted swiftly with this order.”

FOUR TRUMBULL FATALITIES

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Trumbull County increased Monday by 50 percent from eight to 12, according to the county’s combined health district.

The state had reported two deaths at DeWine’s daily 2 p.m. briefing. A couple of hours later, the county district reported two more residents died.

The two Trumbull fatalities reported by the Ohio Department of Health were a woman in her 70s who died Saturday and a woman at least 80 years old who died Friday.

The time it takes to file death certificates results in a lag compared to when the actual deaths occur.

Information about the two other deaths was not provided by the county’s combined health district.

The Trumbull County deaths reported Monday were the first ones disclosed in the Valley since Friday.

They were also the first confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Trumbull since April 3.

Trumbull is tied for the ninth-most virus deaths among counties in the state. It is the 15th-most populous county in the state.

Overall, there were 50 COVID-19 deaths in the Mahoning Valley including 31 in Mahoning County and seven in Columbiana County as of Monday night.

Mahoning continues to lead Ohio’s counties in the number of deaths even though it’s the 12th-most populous. It also had the most confirmed novel coronavirus cases per capita in the state.

Cuyahoga, a county with more than five times Mahoning’s population, continues to be second among counties with 24 fatalities.

Columbiana’s seven deaths means it had the 14th-most COVID-19 deaths Monday. That total includes a new death reported Monday night of an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution at Elkton. Columbiana County ranks 26th in population in Ohio.

There were at least 274 COVID-19 deaths in the state with 49 in the Valley as of Monday.

There were 253 deaths Sunday with 45 in the Valley.

The three counties make up 17 percent of all novel coronavirus deaths in the state.

There are 6,975 confirmed cases of the virus in Ohio Monday, up from 6,604 Sunday.

Statewide, 2,033 people were hospitalized as of Monday because of the virus, up from 1,948 Sunday. Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said of that number, 898 were in hospitals Monday. The others were either discharged or died. Also, 274 people iwere n intensive-care units Monday, up from 595 Sunday.

In Mahoning County, 443 cases and 175 hospitalizations were reported as of Monday, up from 417 and 168, respectively, Sunday. Mahoning has the fifth-most cases and the fourth-most hospitalizations among counties in the state.

In Trumbull County, 180 cases and 81 hospitalizations were reported as of Monday, up from 168 and 79, respectively, Sunday. Trumbull has the ninth-most cases and the seventh-most hospitalizations in the state.

In Columbiana County, there were 114 cases and 72 hospitalizations Monday, up from 105 and 69, respectively, a day earlier. That is the 16th-most cases and the eighth-most hospitalizations.

STATE ORDERS

DeWine on Monday had Acton issue an order to require long-term care facilities, a hot spot for the virus, to inform residents and families within 24 hours of a resident or staff member getting COVID-19.

The list of those facilities — as well as the number of cases — will be made public on the state health department’s COVID-19 webste: coronavirus.ohio.gov.

“The Ohio Department of Health had been strongly encouraging facilities to notify families before this,” DeWine said. “However, this is not a request. Further, we will be providing a list of long-term facilities where an associated individual has tested positive on our website.”

DeWine said the decision to provide the information was his own, adding: “It seemed like the right thing to do.”

Acton said a COVID-19 outbreak is not the fault of nursing homes in many cases.

She also said when the outbreaks occur at nursing homes, “there is a lot of stigma and fear. We want to reach out to these facilities and give them our help because they need us now more than ever.”

In response to the Ohio Department of Health’s order, John Masternick, president / CEO of Windsor House Inc. — in a news release — said four of his facilities are battling COVID-19: Windsor House in Canfield; O’Brien Memorial Health Care Center in Masury, Masternick Memorial Health Care Center in New Middletown, and St. Mary’s Alzheimer’s Center in Columbiana.

Masternick said immediately following the first incident of COVID-19 at each facility, all residents, and their respective family were notified, and the facilities took steps to protect residents and staff. These steps included a deep cleaning and disinfecting by a third party; usage of PPE by staff and residents; banning of visitors; the discontinuation of group activities and dining and screening of all essential deliveries.

Windsor House will not release the specific numbers of residents or staff impacted by COVID-19, Masternick said.

“Windsor House respectfully requests that the policy makers at the state do not force nursing homes to take active COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals in an effort to relieve hospitals from being overloaded with patients, Masternick said. “Community-style housing is not the appropriate placement for COVID-19 patients, even with protective measures in place.”

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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