COLUMBUS -- A statewide curfew has been eased by an hour as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decline around Ohio.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the curfew has been pushed back to 11 p.m., effective tonight (Jan. 28), through at least Feb. 11.

The governor said the change is being made because Ohio hospitalizations for COVID-19 have remained below 3,500 for seven consecutive days.

Ohio has been under a statewide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. since Nov. 19, a move that has dramatically impacted the state's bar and restaurant industry.

DeWine said if hospitalizations drop below 3,000 for seven consecutive days, he plans plan to move to a midnight curfew for at least two weeks.

If the number falls below 2,500 for seven consecutive days, "We believe that we will be able to drop the curfew," he said.

"Keep in mind that hospitalizations are a lagging indicator -- this means that if these numbers go back up, we would likely need to act quickly to reinstitute the appropriate safety measures," DeWine said.

Hospitalizations tied to COVID-19 around the state and region continue to improve.

According to the Ohio Hospital Association website, there were 2,829 residents statewide hospitalized Thursday due to COVID-19. That is a decline of 14 percent in the last week, 30 percent in the last three weeks and 44 percent in the last two months.

In the central region (which includes Knox County), hospitalizations are down 7 percent in the last seven days, 28 percent in the last three weeks and 43 percent in the last two months.

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Knox County continues to also improve, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Following the coronavirus spike in November and December, Knox County on Jan. 7 reported 386 new COVID-19 cases in a two-week period. That number has since been declining and was at 279 on Thursday, down from 281 last week and 373 on Jan. 14.

Knox County met just one indicator (new cases per capita) in the state's Public Health Advisory System, updated each Thursday afternoon. It met two last week. The county remained "red," or level three, due to "high incidence" of the virus around the county.

One indicator, "non-congregate cases," has not been updated by the ODH recently and currently shows zero cases in Knox County over the last three weeks. The ODH's website, however, also shows just five active COVID-19 cases in Knox County's seven long-term care facilities.

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