Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio's top health official had a mix of good and bad news at Tuesday's press conference.
Ohio has confirmed 564 COVID-19 cases in the state and eight deaths — two more than Monday. Deaths have occurred in Stark, Cuyahoga, Erie, Lucas, Franklin, and Gallia Counties.
DeWine said although he never wants to see the numbers rise, it's expected. But Ohio is on the right track and is preparing for that surge, he said.
Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton released some new numbers to public Tuesday that shed some hope during the pandemic.
She said hospital capacity has increased ever since the state ordered a stop to elective surgeries last week. Hospitals are now at 60% capacity. Last week it was at 75%.
Acton said the goal is 50%. The big picture is to make the hospital system one giant Intensive Care Unit.
"What you are doing by stopping the spread is absolutely taking the pressure off our health care system," Acton said.
"We are on the right track," DeWine added.
Currently, there are 145 hospitalizations. Acton gave the following statistics:
- 25 of them are from long-term care facilities
- 16% are health care workers
- 11% (62 people) are in the Intensive Care Unit
As for personal protective equipment for health care workers, Acton said she received a limited shipment from the federal goverment, and it has been distributed. Most of it has gone to hard-hit areas, like Cuyahoga County, which has 167 cases.
DeWine and Acton are asking any businesses not using equipment like gloves to donate them to local health departments and hospitals.
DeWine added that within a 24-hour period, 36 gloves are used to care for one patient in intensive care.
"Our commitment is to get them the gear they need in a timely matter," Acton said.
Today is the first day Ohio is under a stay-at-home order, and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said he received questions from individuals and businesses confused about the extent of the order. His advice: go to coronavirus.ohio.gov and interpret the order as best as you can. He said don't call law enforcement or local health officials to ask how the order applies to them unless it's urgent.
As for businesses, "You do not need a letter or certification or clearance that you have to have with you" to show you are essential, Husted said. What matters is that businesses and employees rationalize how the order applies to them in case they are questioned by offcials.
Husted also asked essential businesses to follow safety measures because it's likely they'll be caught if they don't.
DeWine spent part of the time addressing questions about his reaction to President Donald Trump's press briefing Monday. Trump said he wants the economy up and running in the next two weeks.
Although DeWine said their heads may be in the right place, the focus should be on the people first.
"The truth is that protecting people and protecting the economy are not mutually exclusive," DeWine said. "In fact, one depends upon the other. The fact is that we save our economy by first saving lives. And we have to do it in that order."
Many changes have been made in the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here's what has happened over the last few weeks:
- DeWine has issued an order to freeze state government hiring as well as new contracts to save the state money.
- The state issued a stay-at-home order, which took effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 23. This means Ohioans must only leave their homes for essential needs like groceries, medicine or exercise. To view which businesses are open and closed, click here.
- DeWine ordered centers for people with disabilities to close. Alternatives have been offered to those who need them.
- Most daycares have been ordered to close but can stay open if they apply for a "pandemic license." It'll only be given to daycares that have a high number of parents in health care or public safety.
- Public playgrounds have been ordered to close.
- Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor will be inviting local courts to apply for a share of $4 million in grant funding to help them acquire video conferencing technology to reduce the need for in-person trials and transactions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
- Ohio Medicaid will expand telehealth services to get in contact with health professionals amid the outbreak. It'll include phone calls, FaceTime and smart phones.
- Barbershops, hair and nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors were ordered to close at end of business Wednesday, March 18.
- More than 180 Bureau of Motor Vehicles locations have also been shut down. Five around the state will remain open to issue commercial driver's licenses. DeWine is asking the Ohio General Assembly to pass legislation that will grant a grace period for people who can’t renew licenses. He's also asking law enforcement, including State Highway Patrol, to not issue tickets for someone who has an expired license.
- DeWine is asking all businesses, including nonprofits, manufacturers and retailers, to check each employee's temperature before the individual enters the workplace every day. If the person's temperature is elevated, they should be sent home. He's also encouraging employees to check their own temperature every day as a precaution.
- Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has encouraged people to apply for unemployment benefits online. Requests have skyrocketed. The state is reducing the wait time to receive benefits to help those left without work suddenly due to coronavirus. Go to unemployment.ohio.gov to apply. He also asked small businesses who need financial relief to go to sba.gov/disaster.
- Hospitals are postponing elective surgeries until further notice. The state issued the order Tuesday to conserve protective equipment for health care workers and keep beds open. Patients will receive a call if their surgery has been canceled. The Ohio Hospital Association also says that hospitals across the state are prepared for a 25% surge in COVID-19 cases if that happens.
- Ohio has postponed its primaries. Not even 12 hours before polls were supposed to open, Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health issued a health emergency to shut down polling locations. The new proposed voting date is June 2 but the details still have to be worked out by the courts and/or the state legislature. Absentee ballots would be allowed until then. For more information on what happened, click here. To get anLt. Gov. Jon Husted gave an update on unemployment requests. 78,000 requests have been filed. It was 6,500 two weeks ago. He also asked small businesses who need financial relief to go to sba.gov/disaster. absentee ballot, click here.
- The state has shut down more facilities, including gyms, fitness centers, recreation facilities, theaters, indoor water parks and indoor trampoline parks.
- University of Akron has decided to keep classes online for the rest of the semester. The school has also asked students to leave the residence halls by 11 p.m. Wednesday.
- A Kent State employee has tested negative for COVID-19 after coming into contact with a patient who has the disease. Students have been ordered to leave the residence halls by the end of the week and are eligible for a refund. The university has also announced it will start limiting operations at all eight campuses Monday afternoon.
- Bars and restaurants closed down Sunday night temporarily to prevent large gatherings. DeWine said he came to the decision after he received multiple complaints about crowds over the weekend. Carry-out and delivery options are still available.
- The state is implementing a COVID-19 treatment plan for individuals with an addiction or mental health issues. This includes more telehealth services that will allow patients to video chat with professionals or call a landline. The plan will also implement a service that will allow people to get their medications without having to physically go to a pharmacy. Pharmacies are making sure they have adequate supplies of medications
- The Cleveland Clinic is officially offering drive-thru coronavirus testing with a doctor's order. It's in partnership with University Hospitals, which is doing the same. The testing location is in University Circle.
- Summit County confirmed its first case of COVID-19 Friday. A woman in her 50s is a case of community spread, which means she didn't travel or have direct contact with other COVID-19 patients. The county and the city of Akron have declared public health emergencies. All community centers in Akron closed Monday.
- President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. This allows the White House to get direct aid quickly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disasters and health crises. Trump has also been tested for COVID-19 and doesn't have it.
- Lawmakers plan to send a letter to Trump with 17 requests for state relief, such as having access to more protective equipment for health care workers.
- DeWine issued an order that prohibits visitors in jails. The state also isn't allowing visitors in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and psychiatric facilities.
- Ohio K-12 schools shut down Monday afternoon for three weeks. DeWine said he will help schools with whatever they need, but it's up to administrators to figure out how to determine details of educating students while they're at home and when they return.
- Kent State University, Oberlin College and Ohio State University have canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. Classes will be online. Kent State has also postponed pre-commencement and commencement for spring. Many other schools are doing the same.
- Ohio has temporarily banned mass gatherings of 100 or more people together in close promiximity in a certain place. This includes parades, fairs, theaters and more.
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