COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday clarified that high school graduations can’t be permitted if they amount to mass gatherings.
The Republican governor said the most preferred option is a virtual ceremony conducted online, followed by a drive-in ceremony allowing students to arrive at designated locations at designated times to pick up a diploma, followed by gatherings of 10 people or fewer.
“Mass gatherings can’t be held,” DeWine said Wednesday, correcting a statement a day earlier when he said graduation ceremonies would be up to schools as long as proper social distancing was followed.
“While it’s time to graduate, it’s not time to have a graduation party,” he added. “That will have to wait.”
In other coronavirus-related developments in Ohio:
The state has 937 presumptive or confirmed deaths, and more than 17,300 cases, including more than 3,400 hospitalizations, the Ohio Health Department reported Wednesday. The 5-day case average of 427 was exceeded by Wednesday’s report of 534. The 5-day death average of 49 was exceeded by Wednesday’s report of 138.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
DeWine said the state has acquired and distributed 4.1 million pieces of personal protective equipment throughout Ohio, believed to be the largest in Ohio history.
The equipment is being distributed to emergency management agencies across the state and from there to nursing homes, jails and other places with many people grouped together, the governor said.
Ohio will continue to buy equipment on the open market when possible and have it made in Ohio when it can’t, DeWine said.
Finding the equipment and getting it to the people who need it most continues to be necessary because “this virus unfortunately is going to be with us for a while,” DeWine said.
DeWine stood by his contention that everyone in public spaces should be wearing face coverings or masks, but the state would stop short of requiring it of customers. However, specific businesses are permitted to require customers to wear masks.
In reference to the sudden closure of Urbana University, DeWine said he had feared the smallest higher education institutions would be most vulnerable during this pandemic.
Youngstown State University followed the lead of several other universities and announced it’s waiving ACT and SAT test scores as a requirement for admission because testing for those exams has been canceled during the pandemic.
The change remains in place through next year’s spring semester.
The University of Dayton announced it will furlough about 450 employees and lay off an additional 60 workers this summer, the Dayton Daily News reported. The university notified affected employees this week. Wittenberg University also announced cuts.
Two prison employees and 23 Ohio prison inmates have died from COVID-19, according to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
More than 2,000 inmates out of about 2,500 at Marion Correctional Institution have tested positive to date, while more than 1,500 of about 2,000 have tested positive at Pickaway Correctional Institution, where 16 of the inmates who died were housed.