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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 Extends Stay-At-Home Order; State Parks Remain Open

a screen shot of Amy Acton
Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, signs the new stay-at-home order during Thursday's press conference.

Ohio will be extending its stay-at-home order to May 1. The new order will go into effect Monday night when the old order expires. 

"We're not going to be able to go back normal," Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday. 

The new projected peak for a surge in COVID-19 cases is between April 15 and May 15. Ohio has more than 2,900 cases as of Thursday, and 81 deaths have been confirmed — 16 more than Wednesday. 

"These aren't just numbers," said Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health. "These are the people we love and care about."

The new stay-at-home order comes with a few changes, including:

  • A dispute resolution panel will handle complaints about whether businesses are essential to ensure fairness throughout the state.
  • Revised guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security define an essential business.
  • People traveling to Ohio from out of state are advised to quarantine for 14 days.
  • Retailers will need to establish a number of people allowed in the store at one time to ensure adequate social distancing.

Speaking of overcrowding, DeWine debunked a rumor: "We will not close our state parks."
He said as long as people maintain social distancing guidelines and respect one another, parks will remain open. But if there's overcrowding and people aren't following precautions, the state has the option to close the parks as they see fit. 

"We all need to get out," DeWine said. "We all want places to go. We don't want to close our parks."

However, the stay-at-home order will close campgrounds. The exception is if someone's camper or recreational vehicle serves as a permanent residence, or if they have no other safe housing to go to. 

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also gave an update Thursday for Ohio unemployment filings. More than 468,000 residents have filed for unemployment, which is 100,000 more than the total number of Ohioans who filed in all of 2019. 

A record 6.6 million people have filed for unemployment in the U.S., shattering a record just set last week of 3.3 million, according to NPR.

For those who have lost their jobs, the state has launched a website with available job opportunities: coronavirus.ohio.gov/jobsearch. As of right now, 11,900 jobs are listed. 

Husted said workers who've lost their jobs because of COVID-19 can use this number to expedite your claim through the unemployment system: 2000180. But h e said people who have already applied do not have to apply again with that number. 

Acton said the social distancing will help Ohio get through the crisis faster, but overall she said it's a marathon, and not a sprint. 

"All the evidence is showing now that social distancing is making a difference," Acton said. 

She reminded Ohioans that anybody can get this; she said young people are being hospitalized each day, and many of them are dying. 

Her biggest worry is the "calm before the storm." Acton said the problem with COVID-19 is that it doesn't show itself right away, but she doesn't want Ohioans to think they can lighten up on social distancing practices.

She also warned that the situation will get worse before it gets better, and Ohio is in it for the long haul. 

"We are in a decent position — a lot more than what we would have been. But we are still in this," DeWine said. 

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

  • Hospitals must send COVID-19 tests to larger health systems — Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center — instead of private labs to prevent a lag in results. 
  • Manufacturers who have the ability to retool and make PPE for healthcare workers are urged to go to repurposingproject.com to see where they might be able to help. 
  • The state is allowing SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients to purchase groceries online for pickup or delivery. 
  • 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.