Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine confirmed a fifth case of COVID-19 in Trumbull County at a press conference Thursday. The 55-year-old man is hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit. His family, friends and possible contacts are also quarantined.
"We are told by medical experts that no matter what the number is today, it will double in six days," DeWine said.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reports 52 people are being tested — nearly 30 more than Wednesday.
The announcement comes a day after DeWine and ODH Director Amy Acton confirmed the fourth case of COVID-19 in the state — a 53-year-old man from Stark County. It's the first case of community spread, meaning he didn't travel or have contact with a COVID-19 patient.
Three cases were confirmed in Cuyahoga County earlier this week.
DeWine also announced Thursday that over the next few days, the state will issue an order for nursing homes to prohibit visitors from entering facilities entirely to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some have closed their doors already to the public under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"This will not last forever — this is temporary," DeWine said.
Acton also signed an order that bans mass gatherings in the state, which means a crowd of more than 100 people in close proximity. This includes parades, fairs, festivals, theaters, gyms and arenas. Grocery stores, schools, airports and train stations are not included. It also doesn't include athletic events that prohibit spectators, athletes' families or the media. "The actions we are taking now will save lives," Acton said. She also added that nearly 40% of the U.S. is expected to contract COVID-19. Acton said health officials know at least 1% of Ohio's population is carrying the disease — around 100,000 people. DeWine also covered concerns about Ohio's March 17 primary amid the coronavirus outbreak. He encouraged Ohioans to vote early and go to their respective county board of elections. Voting doesn't meet the definition of a mass gathering and will go on as planned.
In the last 24 hours, businesses and schools in the state have taken measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Businesses are encouraging employees to work from home by the hour, DeWine said. The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services has asked anyone who has questions for them to call and not to come in.
Cleveland Clinic, Summa Health and Mercy Health have changed visitor policies. Mercy Health is allowing visitors over 14 years old who will be screened before entering any patient areas. Each patient is allowed two visitors each day. Summa Health is also allowing two visitors per patient.
Cleveland Clinic will soon receive new testing kits that will let them do in-house testing and receive results in eight hours. Tests sent to the CDC take around two days to get results.
As for schools, DeWine said children can carry the disease, which is why classes will be suspended. Schools will get an extended spring break starting Monday and will close for three weeks, through at least April 3.
"We know it's disruptive to the families, but we have to do this if we're going to slow this down," DeWine said.
Hiram College, Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College are the latest Ohio colleges to suspend in-person classes as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some K-12 school districts have already announced they are closing during Election Day and even before then, including Akron and Twinsburg Public Schools.
Events have also been canceled across the state. Cleveland and Akron canceled their St. Patrick's Day parades. Akron is rescheduling it for September. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has called off its induction ceremony.
In the sports world, The Mid-American Conference (MAC) has canceled the rest of the men's and women's college basketball tournaments. The Power 5 conferences — the Big Ten, Pacific-12 Conference (PAC-12), Southeastern Conference (SEC), Big 12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) — announced the remainder of their tournaments would be canceled. The NBA has suspended its entire season after health officials confirmed two Utah Jazz players have COVID-19.
Members of the Cleveland Cavaliers are in self-quarantine because they played the Jazz in the last 10 days. The MLB and NFL are also suspending operations.
"We are in this together whether we like it or not," DeWine said.
He said we must treat this as it is, a crisis.
"We are in a crisis situation now. We are moving quickly. Taking decisive action now will slow down this disease," Acton said.
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