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COLUMBUS -- A statewide 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew due to COVID-19 will be extended beyond Saturday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday afternoon.

DeWine said the curfew, which had been scheduled to end Saturday, must continue even though the state has experienced a recent declined in coronavirus numbers.

"Unfortunately, it's going to have to stay," DeWine said during a Thursday press briefing. "We have seen where the numbers are. There has been a downtick for a few days. But (virus spread) is still at a very high level.

"We would love to get ride of it. The next step would maybe be to take it to 11 p.m., but we're not there yet," he said.

DeWine said he understands the frustrations of bar and restaurant owners who have dealt with the restrictions since Nov. 19. It was originally set to last 21 days and the governor then extended it another 21 days. He didn't say how long it would be extended beyond Saturday.

"I know this is difficult. I know this has hit (their) ability to operate," DeWine said, adding that "the nature" of the bar/restaurant business precludes customers from wearing masks while eating and drinking.

The governor said the curfew was a "compromise" to keep bars and restaurants open while other states were closing them.

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COVID-19 numbers continued to improve in Ashland County this week, according to the color-coded system used by the state to rate coronavirus spread in a community.

Ashland County met only two of the Ohio Public Health Advisory System's seven indicators, according to the state health department website, which has been updated each Thursday afternoon since it was launched in July.

However, the county remained "red," or level three, due to continued high incidence of new COVID cases under CDC standards. No county can drop down to "orange," or level two, until it records less than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents.

Ashland County recorded 360 new cases in the last two weeks, or 673.10 per 100,000 residents. That's the lowest two-week total recorded since early December. 

The county reported 276 cases in two weeks on Dec. 3. Then, a rise in cases began, topping out at 473 new cases in a two-week period on Dec. 17. 

The two indicators met in Ashland County this week were new cases per capita and also new cases occurring in non-congregate settings.

The state had 83 red counties, four orange counties and one purple county (Hamilton) this week.

In terms of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, 500,176 Ohio residents have received the first dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Modern vaccine as of Thursday, about 4.3 percent of the state's population.

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