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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

State Issues New Orders to Expedite Testing, Help Small Businesses

a photof DeWine and the zone map
Governor Mike DeWine says the state has created three zones to coordinate hospital care during the pandemic

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton is ordering Ohio hospitals that are not able to process COVID-19 tests to send them to hospitals that are able to turn them around more quickly. That includes Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and MetroHealth in Cleveland.

Governor Mike DeWine said, "It's unacceptable to have 4, 5, or 6 day turnaround for tests." Private labs have been lagging in submitting results to the state. DeWine said the state, and sick patients, need the testing information in a more timely manner. The state is using the data as it plans to deal with the expected surge of COVID-19 cases later this month.

DeWine said the Ohio National Guard is visiting facilities as the state prepares for the capacity expected to be necessary during that surge. The National Guard was visiting the Columbus Convention Center and Duke Energy Center in Cincinnati. The governor says plans are not finalized for the use of any facilities, but the National Guard is working to develop sites. 

The state's hospitals have been separated into eight regions for emergency preparedness. The state has further designated three zones to help providers coordinate care during the surge. 

Manufacturers are also stepping up to help supply personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. The state has created a public/private collaboration, Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19. Several entities, including MAGNET and JobsOhio, are part of the effort and the governor invites any manufacturers willing to help produce PPE, to visit repurposingproject.com to see what is needed and what companies might be able to provide. 

The governer also said the state is now allowing recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits to purchase groceries online and sign up for delivery.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said grocery stores are asking customers to help them comply with the state's social distancing requirements in the following ways: 

  1. Be mindful of the space between you and other customers and store associates; keep the recommended distance of 6 feet.  
  2. Shop patiently. Watch and wait for other customers to complete selections in aisles. 
  3. Limit and consolidate shopping trips
  4. Shop alone when possible
  5. Stay home if you don’t feel well
  6. Wash & sanitize your hands before visiting the store and after you're done shopping. Don’t touch your face while shopping and wear a mask or gloves
  7. Shop online for curbside pickup or home delivery

Governor DeWine also signed an executive order to help small businesses hurting from the economic impact of the state's efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus. The order asks lenders and landlords to suspend payments for at least 90 days. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said, "Frankly this will have a huge impact on what happens when we try to restart things." 
But that may not come for a while. “I have to say to be very realistic and honest, this will not be a switch that you flip and life goes back to normal," Dr. Acton said. "It really will be a gradual returning; life will be different for quite some time to come.”  

"I wish I could give you hope about your summer, but it’s going to be a slow flat top and then it’s going to go down again slowly," Acton said. 

Many things have occurred in the state over the last few weeks regarding COVID-19. Among them: 

  • DeWine ordered ventilator tracking so the state has an understanding of where ventilators are and how many are available. Reports are to be made beginning Wednesday by 5:00 p.m. at coronavirus.ohio.org/ventinventory
  • Ohio EPA ordered a halt to water service shutoffs; all public water service is to be maintained. Customers who've been disconnected need to call to request reconnection.
  • DeWine ordered all schools to remain closed until May 1. The initial order closed them for three weeks. 
  • Battelle Labs has begun its effort to help address the shortage of PPE. It has developed a way to sanitize up to 80,000 N95 masks per machine per day.  
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says over the last two weeks Ohio's unemployment compensation system has had two times as many applicants as it had over the past two years. 
  • Daycares closed at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, March 25 unless they secured a temporary pandemic childcare license from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. A limited number of temporary licenses were awarded and are intended to provide care for healthcare, emergency personnel, and other essential employees. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • Lt. 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Bars and restaurants closed down 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. 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.