Although Gov. Mike DeWine didn't issue any new orders during Thursday's press conference, Ohio's top health official wanted Ohioans to know what they're doing is helping the health care system. "Ohio, what you're doing is absolutely saving lives," said Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, 867 cases of COVID-19 and 15 deaths have been confirmed in the state. But Acton said it could be far worse if residents weren't staying home and social distancing. However, there's more work to do.
"I can't tell you enough ... we've got to even clamp down more. We've got to stay home," Acton said. As of right now, health officials are expecting a surge around May 1. Acton believes if more people and businesses follow safety precautions, the surge could be pushed off even further.
However, Ohio could soon see cases triple daily.
"We will surge. We may be as high as 6,000 to 8,000 new cases a day," Acton said. She explained it's expected, but the goal is to prepare Ohio's hospitals.
Hospitals are working to increase capacity so they're prepared once that surge hits. They have freed up about 15% additional capacity in recent days, going from 75% full to 60%. Acton wants that number to be around 50%.
The reason why capacity is crucial is because COVID-19 patients can spend up to 20 days in the hospital, Acton said.
DeWine said he's working with more than 200 CEOs from hospitals around the state to make sure every part of the system is ready for the surge and has a plan in place. DeWine said Ohioans taking precautions "buys the hospitals (and) buys everybody more time so we are up and ready to go when this hits."
"You see what is happening in New York," Acton said. "This is real."
As of Thursday, New York reported more than 21,000 COVID-19 cases. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the New York public hospital system had 13 deaths within 24 hours at one of its hospitals. Acton and DeWine are urging businesses and individuals to follow the stay-at-home order to prevent this.
Since the order went into effect Monday night, many businesses had to close and forced people to file for unemployment.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said more than 187,000 Ohioans have filed, which is a little over half the number of claims filed in all of 2019.
On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department announced nearly 3.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment, shattering a record set in 1982, according to NPR.
Husted also addressed legislation that will be signed by DeWine Friday. There will be no in-person primary this year. Mail-in voting will be accepted until April 28. Residents can find and print their absentee ballot at voteohio.gov, or call their county Board of Elections. For more details on the legislation, click here.
Husted ended the conference by thanking those on the front lines of the pandemic who can't work from home.
"There are some people that are out there in the workplace that can't do that. And they're our heroes," Husted said. "We're grateful for them for showing up."
He also mentioned he received a note from a doctor who said, "It's very scary for the people who are working in our hopsitals," but doctors want to save Ohioans and make sure they're healthy.
The doctor had one request: Stay home.
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:
- Daycares closed at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday 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. 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.
- 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.