Dayton-area CEOs, leaders push for others to ‘stop the spread’

A group of Dayton-area business leaders on Wednesday continued a plea to the public help to slow the spread of COVID-19 — urging people to wear a mask, wash their hands and physically distance.

In October, as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations starting ramping up dramatically, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine asked the Ohio Business Roundtable for help in getting the message out.

“People aren’t listening to me anymore,” DeWine said then, in a conversation recalled Wednesday by Pat Tiberi, chief executive of the Business Roundtable, a coalition of Ohio CEOs. “I don’t know what to do. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, but we need more people to engage.”

Dayton business leaders who are part of the Ohio Coalition to Stop the Spread gathered virtually Wednesday to answer that call, with top executives from CareSource, Dayton Children’s Hospital, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and others, to emphasize the simple message of halting the spread of the virus.

“A top-down message from Columbus is not getting through to everybody clearly,” said Tiberi, a former congressman.

Similar efforts by CEOs in other Ohio cities are planned in coming days, he said, outlining what has become a clear priority for the Roundtable and its members. Tiberi called it a “one-of-a-kind coalition in Ohio.”

Dr. Nancy Pook, a Kettering Health Network emergency physician, said her colleagues are seeing too many patients coming in with severe symptoms, dehydrated and deprived of oxygen.

“I’m shocked that others aren’t wearing masks,” she said in a coalition Zoom call. “It’s selfish not to wear a mask.”

Hospitals, physicians and front-line health care workers can’t do it alone, Tiberi said. “They need help.”

As of Tuesday, Ohio had seen more than 470,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since counting began, with the Ohio Department of Health reporting 25,751 additional coronavirus cases, an number that included clearing a backlog of pending files dating back to Nov. 1.

During the past two months, case counts have “skyrocketed,” DeWine said Tuesday.

“We are communicating internally and frankly to anybody who will listen ... the very important message of continuing to be responsible and diligent,” said Erhardt Preitauer, president and CEO of CareSource and a roundtable member.

“If we let our guard down, it would be a shame,” Preitauer added. “And we know everyone is tired, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

We all know someone who has or had COVID, said Vishal Soin, president of Soin LLC. “Those numbers seem to be increasing at almost a wildfire rate these days.”

Returning to normalcy will take more than chief executives and politicians, though. Employees need to join the effort, coalition members emphasized.

“To get us back to normal in the quickest way possible, it can’t be led by CEOs,” Soin said, adding: “We have asked employees to take that personal responsibility.”

Dayton Children’s Hospital has started taking in some adult patients when it can “just to provide a relief valve for” for strained area hospitals, said Deborah Feldman, Dayton Children’s president and CEO. And the hospital has asked all employees to sign a “keep safe” pledge.

Col. Patrick Miller, installation commander at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said the “campaign” against COVID is appropriately named.

“When we go on the attack against something, we use that word ‘campaign,’ which couldn’t be more fitting,” Miller said.

When he assumed command of the base in June, Ohio was seeing perhaps 300 to 400 new COVID cases daily. Today, new cases number in the thousands.

What “scares me the most about this pandemic is that roughly 40%” of cases are asymptomatic — and those people can be go about without any indication that they’re contributing to the viral spread, he said.

“You are on the front lines,” Miller said.

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