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While new confirmed cases reached their highest figure on Monday, April 13, other measures show the slowing of the coronavirus pandemic in the state. The peak of new cases is estimated to be this weekend. (Graphic from the Ohio Department of Health)

Ohio officials share elements of “response and recovery plan”

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NOTE: This article includes updated daily case figures to correct an error.

Face masks in use for at least a year. An “army” of amateur epidemiologists mobilized to trace cases. Widespread and rapid testing to see who has — and who had — COVID-19.

Those are a few aspects of the State of Ohio’s plan to start opening up businesses and schools following the coronavirus pandemic. The ideas were previewed at the Monday, April 13, press briefing by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. The full plan will be released over the coming weeks, state officials said.

DeWine said life will be different until a vaccine against the coronavirus is available, which he said may take an estimated 12 to 18 months. 

“We’re not going to flip on a switch someday and the world goes back to where it was,” DeWine said. “Things will be different [until we have a vaccine.]”

Addressing the use of cloth face masks, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health have recommended, ODH Director Amy Acton said they are “yet another weapon to get back to normalcy” even though the use of them is a “culture change.”

“We are going to be looking at a year of using these in new ways,” she said. “Keep making them. This is something we are all going to get used to.”

An increase in the availability of testing for COVID-19, and for the antibodies which are created when someone recovers from the disease, will also be needed for the state to reopen, officials said. Addressing a reporter’s question on whether testing capacity has improved, DeWine said, “we’re closer, yes, but we’re not there yet,” and that Ohio’s struggles are similar to other states. 

“Antibody testing is certainly one pieces of the puzzle to starting back,” DeWine added. He said some private businesses are already investing in their own tests, but that they should be sure the tests are approved by the FDA through their emergency use authorization. 

DeWine also suggested that even if he chose to open parts of the economy, Ohio residents still need “confidence” in the health and safety of the wider community.

“Part of what needs to happen before we get back is people need to have confidence that they can go out to a restaurant,” DeWine said. “Whatever rule I have in place, people still have to feel confident or they’re not going to do anything.”

To that end, Acton detailed a plan to isolate and track confirmed COVID-19 cases using an alternative workforce involving amateur epidemiologists and “mobile units of testers” who can be deployed to hot spots around the state for rapid testing.

In other news — 

Unemployment benefits update

Ohioans who are currently receiving unemployment benefits will get an additional $600 per week from the federal government starting at the end of next week, it was announced at the press conference. Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Hustead also addressed the long wait times for many, and said the system was improving. A “virtual” call center is in development, Hustead added

Cases slow, peak projected this weekend

The Ohio Department of Health reported 6,975 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state as of April 13, a daily increase in 371 cases.  In addition 2,033 have been hospitalized, 85 more, or 4% higher, than the previous day. In response to a question from a reporter, there are 898 people currently hospitalized statewide. ICU admissions since the start of the crisis rose by  18, to 613 (a 3% increase). Deaths statewide rose by 21 to 274 fatalities.

In Greene County, cases increased from the day before by two, to 30, with nine hospitalizations and one death. There is one confirmed case in Yellow Springs, a local man who was admitted to the ICU last week.

Some data shows how the numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths have slowed in Ohio in recent weeks. For example, over the previous five days, increases in hospitalizations rose by less than 10% daily, from between 10 and 20% over the preceding week. The largest number of new cases were seen on April 4, at 427 new cases. April 13th’s daily hospitalization increases of 85 was less than its peak of 141 on April 8. The largest daily increase in ICU admissions, 55, was also reached on April 8. The largest daily death increase was also on April 8, with 26 deaths that day.*

According to the ODH’s forecast model, the state is projecting a daily peak of 1,607 new cases for Sunday, April 19. Those figures were revised down from estimates of 8,000 to 10,000 a few weeks earlier, figures that included assumptions about the impact of social distancing measures. The state’s initial forecast was for 62,000 new cases daily on March 22 with no action to stem the spread of the virus. 

* This paragraph was updated to  correct a numerical error.

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