Confirmed cases rise to 247: Highlights from March 21 governor’s briefing
- Published: March 21, 2020
At today’s press briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the closure of Ohio’s adult day services as part of an intensifying effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state. DeWine also strengthened calls to Ohioans to limit their nonessential activities, while stopping short, for now, of ordering “shelter in place” measures that other states have enacted.
Government measures can’t do everything, according to DeWine, who urged state residents to “focus on what we can do as citizens.” Noting that he had received calls and texts earlier in the day showing that some Ohioans were going about their Saturday business as usual, he told citizens, “We can’t have regular Saturday mornings for a while.”
DeWine used some of his strongest and clearest language to-date in characterizing the gravity of the public health crisis gripping Ohio.
“What we do now will determine how many of us die,” he said.
But he also urged Ohioans not to panic, telling them, “We control our own destiny.”
Regarding the adult day services closure, DeWine noted that the state has been working with providers to make sure that the 26,000 Ohioans with developmental disabilities will be able to access such services in smaller, residential settings under the 10-person limit currently recommended for social gatherings.
The adult day services order goes into effect at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23.
While that was the only new order announced today, DeWine indicated that new measures would be made public at tomorrow’s briefing.
247 confirmed cases in Ohio; Dayton area among ‘hot spots in nursing homes’
Also announced today were the state’s latest figures for the illness. There are now 247 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, up from 169 on Friday. Cases have been confirmed in 33 counties. There have been 58 people hospitalized, with 3 deaths.
The three individuals who died were residents of Cuyahoga, Erie and Lucas counties, all in the northern part of the state.
The county tallies, posted to the Ohio Department of Health website, included the following counties bordering or near Greene County: 1 case in Clark, 1 in Montgomery, 21 in Franklin, 8 in Hamilton, 2 in Warren, 16 in Butler and 11 in Miami.
As of Saturday afternoon, the state is reporting zero confirmed cases in Greene County.
However, Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton identified the Dayton area as being among three parts of the state experiencing “hot spots in nursing homes.” She did not elaborate. Local media have reported an outbreak of the virus in an assisted living facility in Miami County, as well as possible exposure in a nursing home in Troy.
Acton called the new case numbers “a snapshot of what’s going on” in Ohio. The figures don’t represent a true picture of the scope and severity of the disease’s spread in Ohio, she implied.
And she sought to debunk what she called the “fallacy” that “middle America is not impacted.”
“We had a seeding of this infection early on,” Acton said, indicating that limited testing kits, not limited cases of the virus, were the reason that Ohio has lagged harder-hit states such as Washington and New York.
Regarding the reported deaths, Acton acknowledged that additional COVID-19 deaths not included in the state’s tally have been reported in local media around the state and are under investigation by the Ohio Department of Health.
Noting that those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state range in age from 1 to 91, with a median age of 51, she echoed DeWine in urging all Ohioans to limit their activities to help stem the spread of the virus.
“This is the time to stay at home in place,” she said.
‘Cascading effect’ in Ohio economy
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced several new measures designed to curb the “cascading effect” of the public health crisis on Ohio’s economy.
Businesses will be able to defer insurance premium installment payments to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation until June 1, with the matter reconsidered at that point. The bureau serves 249,000 public and private employers. Deferred payments for March through May total $200 million, money that will remain available to employers during those three months, according to Husted. Details are available at bwc.ohio.gov.
In an effort to keep supply chains intact, haulers carrying essential goods such as groceries and medical supplies have been granted waivers for weight and size from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Details are available at transportation.ohio.gov.
Husted highlighted two economic relief measures geared to small businesses. Small business owners can defer health insurance premium insurance payments for up to 60 calendar days. And with Ohio a declared disaster relief state, small businesses are eligible to apply for SBA disaster loan assistance. Details on the latter are available at disasterloan.sba.gov.
More forms of business relief would be forthcoming, Husted added.
‘You are not alone’
Ohio’s top mental health official, Lori Criss, offered a few words of advice for Ohioans struggling with mental health issues.
She urged people with mental health and addiction issues to keep their appointments or to call their providers for alternative appointment methods, such as phone and video conferencing.
“You are not alone,” she told Ohioans, noting that the widespread practice of “social distancing” involved physical distancing, not a lack of connection and support.
For those with children, she advised talking with young people about what’s happening in age-appropriate ways; making a family plan for helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and monitoring and limiting media exposure.
“This is temporary, Ohio is resilient, we have grit,” she said.
Asked by a reporter about the status of Ohio’s hospital capacity, Acton said that hospitals in the state were “all working together” on regional plans to maximize capacity. More details would available early next week, she said.
Regarding a previous order to postpone “elective procedures” to conserve the availability of hospital beds and personal protective equipment, Acton and DeWine declined to provide specific answers to questions regarding whether surgical abortions were considered such procedures.
Asked about whether COVID-19 testing is becoming more available in the state, Acton replied that testing was still limited. “Every ounce of tests we have is being maximized,” she said. Tests are available only by a doctor’s order, and people with mild symptoms or no symptoms are unlikely to be tested, she reiterated.
Asked about hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug touted today in a tweet by President Trump for experimental use against COVID-19, Acton stressed that while some Ohioans may be able to get a limited prescription on a “compassionate use” basis, the medication should not be stockpiled. “This is a social contract,” she said, noting that the drug is needed by people with autoimmune and other conditions.
And finally, in response to a question about early release from jails and prisons to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among inmates, DeWine said that Ohio is not considering such a step for the state’s prison system. Whether early release happens in county jails is up to the local courts, he added.