COVID-19 Deaths Increase in Ohio, DeWine Freezes Hiring in State Government

Mar 23, 2020

There are now 442 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio in 46 counties. Six deaths have been reported in Stark, Cuyahoga, Erie, Franklin and Lucas counties, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). 

Dr. Amy Acton, the director of ODH, said Monday it's likely there are clusters of cases in the state. 

"We are very limited in our testing right now," Acton said. She added there are many pending test kits at private labs.

Acton said the age range for cases is now between less than one year old to 93 years old.

She wanted to make her message clear: "We are in a situation, in the short term, where we have to do everything in our power to get people to stay at home."

Ohio's stay-at-home order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday. This means residents should only be going outside of their homes for essential needs: groceries, gas, medicine, exercise, doctor visits and taking care of loved ones. Many businesses will close as well. To view what will stay open or closed, click here.

Many other states have implemented a similar order. Michigan, which has three times as many cases as Ohio, has an order going into effect Monday night as well. California is currently sheltering in place. 

"I am very much aware of how much suffering is going on out there," DeWine said. "We have to protect life and that is the most important thing we can do. We will move away from this."

As for how the order will be enforced, the state is working out the details. DeWine did say that local law enforcement can issue citations because if residents break the order, "it is a violation of the law."

DeWine said to use common sense: just stay at home. 

As the order is about to go into effect, DeWine said it will slow down commercial activity, which will slow down state revenue. He is issuing an order that will freeze hiring in the state government to reserve funds as much as possible. A freeze on new state contract services also takes effect immediately. 

Acton touched on protective equipment for health care workers. She said there's still a shortage nationwide as well as in Ohio. She is working with the federal government to receive shipments. 

"Local health departments ... we're getting that to you. But don't be surprised. Small boxes," Acton said. "We're getting everything we have out to you."

The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association sent a letter to President Donald Trump Saturday calling on the administration to use the Defense Production Act to "increase the domestic production of medical supplies and equipment" that health care facilities and frontline workers need.

The Defense Production Act was signed during the Korean War and gives the president permission to demand higher production of much-needed supplies. Trump tweeted a few days before the letter was sent, saying he would only use it as a last resort. 

Acton once again enouraged businesses and schools that don't need equipment like gloves or masks to donate them to local health agencies and hospitals. 

DeWine and Acton spent most of the press conference encouraging residents and businesses to keep using safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

"The truth is, and people at home, please hear this: The most important thing we can all do is stay at home," Acton said.

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:

  • The state issued a stay-at-home order, which goes into 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. 
  • 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.