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Lift liquor ban

Gov. Mike DeWine has handed a difficult situation well as he has led the Buckeye State through the novel coronavirus pandemic, but we believe he made a misstep last week.

DeWine acted early and decisively to close schools, halt large gatherings and, ultimately, to instruct people to stay at home unless travel was essential. It appears those were smart, effective moves, since experts tell us that the infection rate in Ohio is now peaking at much lower numbers than initially projected. There is no doubt that those steps have saved lives, and DeWine has been praised by many for his leadership during this crisis.

On Monday, however, he took a step that we believe was unnecessary. In fact, we believe it is one that will harm businesses that already are struggling amid the downturn in economic activity that has resulted from people staying at home.

DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton issued an order Monday that bans stores in just six counties from selling liquor to people who are residents of other states. The order affects counties along the border with Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf banned all liquor sales.

The counties impacted by the order include local ones — Belmont, Jefferson, Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana. In those counties, only people who can show identification issued by the state of Ohio can purchase alcohol. The order does allow exceptions for people who have out-of-state IDs and a letter stating that they work at an essential job within the county where they are making the liquor purchase.

“Any other time we would love to have visitors from Pennsylvania, but during this time those who are coming in to buy liquor are creating a health hazard, and that is something we have to take action in regard to that,” DeWine told reporters Monday.

We understand that the governor and Dr. Acton want what is best for all Ohioans. We want that as well.

But while we are safeguarding the health of residents, we should not turn away residents of neighboring states who commonly do business here.

Here in the local region, it is much more common for residents of Eastern Ohio to interact with people from Pennsylvania or West Virginia than it is for us to have contact with people from Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati or Dayton. We are a tri-state community, and we have come to rely on one another, regardless of state lines.

DeWine should reconsider the order and allow local stores to sell liquor and all their goods to all area residents, no matter which state they come from.

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