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119 COVID-19 Cases Confirmed In Ohio As Possible First Death Investigated

Ohio health officials are investigating a potential coronavirus death, Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

The case remains under review, she cautioned. Gov. Mike DeWine said he had also been informed of the case.

If confirmed, it would be the first COVID-19 death reported in the state.

“This is real,” said Acton, who reiterated calls for Ohioans to stay home if they can. “This is why we want you to take it seriously.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Health had confirmed 119 cases of COVID-19 and 33 hospitalizations.

At the Thursday news conference, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor urged local courts across the state to limit unnecessary contact between people in the justice system while remaining open for emergencies and time-sensitive issues.

O’Connor asked judges to consider temporary stays of evictions and foreclosures where appropriate, except in cases involving domestic violence or other threatening situations. She also encouraged judges to set lower bonds and use summonses rather than arrests to bring defendants to court.

The chief justice will spend $4 million from her budget to help local courts buy the equipment needed to conduct more hearings by video rather than in person, she said.  

The state is also allowing Medicaid patients to use telehealth for medical and behavioral care, Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran said. The move is intended to relieve pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms, she said, and get people care without having to leave their homes.

The Ohio Department of Aging formed a task force to address the potential spread of coronavirus in nursing homes, said the agency’s director, Ursel McElroy. The department is also preparing to deliver more meals in person to seniors who usually receive them in group settings or at central pickup locations.

“We believe there will be an exponential need for home-delivered meals,” McElroy said.

DeWine activated the Ohio National Guard Wednesday to help distribute supplies from understaffed food banks. The governor said the Guard will be carrying groceries, not weapons.

“Rumors about martial law, quarantining everyone in their home – none of those are true,” DeWine said.

After closing most state Bureau of Motor Vehicles locations as of the end of the day Wednesday, DeWine also ordered the Ohio State Highway Patrol not to issue tickets to drivers whose licenses have expired.

The state has already closed schools, dine-in restaurant service, bars, salons, barbershops and other businesses.

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