The number of COVID-19 cases in Ohio has exceeded 100. There are now 119 cases in 24 Ohio counties, that's up from 88 cases Wednesday. Cases among men exceed those among women, 76 to 43. There are 33 people in the hospital.
“We are definitely on the upslope now," said the state health director, Dr. Amy Acton. She likened the spread to a fast-moving train and urged everyone to do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19. She also praised the ingenuity of Ohioans who are working to adapt to the new normal. "We're inventing solutions as we go."
There has been concern about people traveling, either returning from or planning to take a trip for spring break. Governor Mike DeWine urged people not to travel. And Acton said people returning to Ohio should self isolate and self monitor for symptoms. "I need you to stay home," she said.
At the daily briefing, Governor Mike DeWine also ordered internet cafes to close, after being alerted of gatherings there.
Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran also announced a dramatic expansion of telehealth services. Telehealth includes video capacity but she said it also includes simple things like phone calls, Facetime and the use of simple smart phones. She said patients do not need to have existing relationships with providers to access these services.
"This is not only helpful in our current crisis, but for us in our healthcare system to leapfrog forward and begin to provide healthcare in a different way that will be satisifying and accessible to many Ohoians," Corcoran said.
In addition, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor announced that she was making available $4 million that will be awarded via grants to help local courts, particularly in rural parts of the state, acquire video conferencing technology to reduce the need for in- person transactions. O'Connor said courts around the state have been able to close for non-essential purposes. They are maximizing the use of technology to reduce the need for face to face interaction.
O'Connor also said she's asked local courts to assess jail populations. Inmates who are low-risk for release but high-risk for infection may be removed from the jail population. "The reason for this is two-fold. One, to safeguard the folks that are in the jail and two, to offer the individual who may be at risk an opportunity to be isolated."
O'Connor emphasized courts have to be open to address emergency and time-sensitive matters, but many courts are being innovative in handling the situation. She supports stays on foreclosures and evictions, being implemented by some municipalities. "Those are good practices and those are practices I definitely would urge," O'Connor said.
The governor noted the grocery supply chain is doing well, but a suggestion to monitor temperatures has left thermometers in short supply. He also said the National Guard has been asked to help at foodbanks.
At the suggestion of his wife, Fran, Gov. DeWine urged all Ohioans to fly the American or state of Ohio flag in a show of solidarity and strength. "We will get through this. Spring will come," DeWine 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:
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Ohio's unemployment law will be extended to help those who are put out of work because of the pandemic. For more details, click here.
- 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. Large gatherings such as graduation will be reevaluated at a later date. Many colleges have suspended in-person classes until mid-April.
- 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.
- Many events have been canceled across the state. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame postponed its induction ceremony, Vice President Mike Pence is no longer visiting Summit County and the Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament canceled the rest of its games, along with many other conferences like NCAA.