There are now three deaths related to coronavirus in Ohio. Gov. Mike DeWine is opening the state's emergency operating center, shutting down centers serving people with disabilities and allowing bigger loads to be trucked to grocery stores and medical facilities.
The two new deaths are from Cuyahoga and Erie Counties. They join the state's first COVID-19 death, announced yesterday. 76-year-old Mark Wagoner Sr. died Wednesday in the Toledo area. He was the father of former state senator and current Lucas County Republican Party Chairman Mark Wagoner.
DeWine’s most recent orders include the opening of the Emergency Operating Center, which will serve as a command and control center and can manage supply chain and logistics as businesses offer supplies and help. The EOC is often opened during weather crises.
DeWine has also ordered the closing of adult day services for people with disabilities. Those facilities offer work training, social and recreational opportunities and social settings, often in groups. The more than 26,000 people who need those services will get them in settings of fewer than 10 people. DeWine said many had already closed and caregivers have decided to keep those people at home.
He took a dire tone in warning people the spread of this is in the hands of everyone in the state. "What we do now, what we do not do now will really determine ultimately how many Ohioans die. This is an absolutely critical time. We determine, we have in our own hands how far, how fast this will spread," DeWine said.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced that the state will allow businesses to forego payments to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for March through May and defer them to June 1. He said that will leave $200 million in the economy. That's in addition to an announcement Friday that the Department of Insurance is offering a grace period to defer health insurance premium payments for up to 2 months.
And Husted also announced the state will grant waivers on truck weight limits to allow for larger loads to grocery stores and medical facilities. DeWine has said that the supply chain is fine, though customers have seen empty shelves of bread, paper products, canned goods and other supplies at grocery stores.
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said there are other deaths that have been reported but haven't made it to the state's count. And she said while Ohio is in the surge of coronavirus patients, there are hotspots in nursing homes in Dayton, Cleveland and rural Tuscarawas County.
The Ohio Department of Health later said there was no cluster in a nursing home in Cuyahoga County, and offered this statement on Tuscarawas County: "The Tuscarawas County Health Department is following a confirmed case from another County that had direct contact with approximately 20 residents and three healthcare workers in one of Tuscarawas County's long-term care facilities. TCHD followed recommended procedures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department of Health and we are working closely with the long-term care facility to monitor the residents. The families of the residents have also been notified. We will not be releasing the name of the long-term care facility."
Editor's note: This story has been updated.