State Seeks Supplies and FDA Approval of Breakthrough Process to Reuse Surgical Masks

Mar 28, 2020

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine held up a cardboard chart during his briefing Saturday. The low-tech visual, he said, was due to an illness among the behind-the-scenes crew that allows the daily briefing to be televised. DeWine said they were relieved to learn that the individual, hospitalized with pneumonia, tested negative for COVID-19. 

But cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in the state, up to 1,406 according to the state health department with 25 fatalities due to the coronavirus. More than 340 people remain in the hospital.

The state continues to prepare for a surge of cases. Gov. Mike DeWine announced what he called a breakthrough that could help Ohio's healthcare system, as well as other states hard hit like New York and Washington. Battelle Labs in Columbus has developed a process to sterilize surgical masks multiple times for reuse. The process has the capacity to sterilize 160,000 masks a day, as soon as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves. Gov. DeWine says they've been on the phone seeking approval and he made a public appeal during his briefing. "Please do this. It really is truly a matter of life and death. We need to protect our people who are risking their lives every single day."

The top ten list Gov. DeWine held up at the start of the briefing included items in short supply that he invited any Ohioan to donate. That includes surgical gowns, gloves, face shields, isolation gowns and several other things. People who have these items are urged to email together@governor.ohio.gov to find out how to contribute. 

The Governor and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton also urged private labs conducting COVID-19 tests, including LabCorps and Quest Laboratories, to submit the results of their testing. "It's a matter of life and death so we can act upon that information for patients and everyone else," DeWine said.  

The governor also said he signed an order last night requiring that his team of state employees inspect every contractor currently working for the state to ensure they're abiding by best practices outlined in previous state orders to keep workers safe.    

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the state has signed onto the unemployment compensation that will be provided in the federal relief act. State workers will be able to apply for those benefits as soon as the state acquires the technology necessary. It will not be ready Monday. "We have engaged the private sector to help the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services build the system out as quickly as we can so you can get on there and enroll," he said. He indicated, regardless of when people apply, benefits will be awarded retroactively to January 27 and 39 weeks of aid will be available. 

Husted also said the state has hired 100 people to man the phone lines for unemployment and has expanded the hours from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. weekdays. For the first time the agency took calls Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. He again encouraged people to use unemployment.ohio.gov. "We've expanded the website capacity by twenty times," he said.  

Many changes have been made in the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and much has happened over the last few weeks: 

  • Nearly 188,000 Ohioans have filed for unemployment, according to new numbers released by the state Thursday. 
  • 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.
  • 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.  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.