Ohio Confirms First COVID-19 Death, Senior Centers to Close

Mar 20, 2020

Ohio has confirmed its first COVID-19-related death. 

"We have now entered a new phase in our battle against the coronavirus," said Gov. Mike DeWine Friday. 

DeWine said he and many other state lawmakers personally knew the victim, Mark Wagner Sr., a 75-year-old attorney from Lucas County.  

As of Friday, Ohio has 169 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up from 119 Thursday. 

To prevent the spread of the disease further, especially to high-risk populations, DeWine is ordering all senior centers and senior daycares to close at the end of business hours Monday. 

DeWine said although the centers are closing, the state will make sure senior citizens get the care they need, such as delivering food to their homes. The order is to prevent a large gathering of people in the centers. 

DeWine also addressed the possibility of a statewide shutdown.

Other states like California and Pennsylvania have issued "shelter in place" orders to keep people home. It mandates people to stay inside and only leave for necessities, like going to the grocery store. For California, if residents violate the order, it's a misdemeanor punishable with a fine, jail time, or in some cases, both. 

Dewine said there will be no shelter in place order for Ohio as of Friday, but he said businesses need to start taking precautions seriously.

He added he's been receiving emails and letters from employees about their workplaces not following orders. "Let be me very, very clear: I will err on the side of protecting people," he said. "The bad behavior, the reckless behavior, must stop."

DeWine said many Ohioans are already staying home and he sees not need for an order right now. 

"If I were to issue an order today, you would still need to have a whole list of people you would need to exempt. ... Sometimes it's not always black and white."

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted took some time Friday to highlight Ohioans acting in heroic ways and to call out people for not looking out for others. 

He said some school districts, like Hilliard, have reported increased participation since the state canceled in-person classes and implemented online learning. Husted also praised businesses for taking precautions, such as keeping people six feet apart in line and sanitizing multiple times a day.

But on the flip side, he asked residents to stop being selfish in grocery stores and to only take what they need. 

"Tough times reveal our character. They'll reveal us as being selfless or selfish," Husted said. 

DeWine ended the press conference on a lighter note. Thursday, he asked Ohioans to raise their flags in solidarity. He read an email he received to the press:

"Mr. Dewine. We do not have an American Flag to hang outside our home. Today after your news conference, my seven year old daughter made this flag for our house in honor of your request."

Alayna's flag.
Credit GOV. MIKE DEWINE / TWITTER

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:

  • 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. 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.