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Governor: 10 p.m. alcohol ban under review, other aid on way

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state’s ban on alcohol sales after 10 p.m. is under review and aid could be on the way to small businesses hurt by the economic slowdown during the pandemic, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.

The Republican governor said he understands the impact the ban — meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus by limiting late-night socializing — is having on bars and restaurants. He said mayors of big cities have asked that it stay in place, but acknowledged at least one mayor wants it lifted.

Earlier this month, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Police Chief Eliot Isaac asked DeWine to lift the ban, concerned it’s contributing to a spike in violence by pushing people with guns into public and private places.

DeWine said reviewing the ban means balancing the economy and people’s health. Though Ohio is struggling to reduce its daily coronavirus infection rate of around 1,000 cases, the state hasn’t had a flare-up like other states, the governor said.

“What we constantly have to evaluate is how this hurts small business, versus what it does if we expand the hours with regard to potential spread,” DeWine said.

Without providing details, DeWine also said he’s talking with legislative leaders about “some specific help for small businesses, some specific help with regards to people who pay rent,” with an announcement expected soon. Messages were left with the House speaker and Senate president.

During the governor’s twice weekly briefing, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted promoted a new, free training program to help unemployed workers gain skills to apply for high-tech jobs. Husted also highlighted a study that says Ohio ranks 10th on a list of states’ progress in getting back to normal.

But Husted also said he recognized the state’s continued unemployment woes are an ongoing challenge.

Both initial claims for unemployment and continuing claims rose slightly in the last week as the impact of the pandemic on the economy continues, Ohio’s human services agency reported Sept. 24.

On Tuesday, the Dayton Daily News reported that P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is laying off nearly 300 workers across the state as part of a national downsizing. Husted said such job losses must be considered alongside major hiring announcements by companies like Amazon, whose business has boomed during the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of disruption in the economy where some types of traditional businesses are laying off and will continue to lay off,” Husted said. “I expect we’ll continue to see those announcements for some time as other businesses are hiring.”

The Ohio Health Department has reported nearly 153,000 confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus, including 4,783 deaths. The department reported 1,105 confirmed and probable new cases Tuesday, above the 21-day average of 996 cases.

Also Tuesday, Columbus city schools, the state’s largest district with about 50,000 students, said it will resume in-person classes for younger grades with a phased-in approach starting Oct. 19, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

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