Three people in Cuyahoga County in their 50s tested positive on Monday for the coronavirus that’s part of the outbreak, leading Gov. Mike DeWine to open the state’s emergency operations center, sign an emergency order, cancel events, urge Ohioans to vote absentee and restrict state employee travel.
Two of the patients are a married couple — one is hospitalized, the other is not — who fell ill after returning home from a Nile River cruise; the third patient is a man who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C.
“This is no ordinary time. It’s important for us to take aggressive actions to protect Ohioans,” DeWine said at a press conference at the Statehouse. “The actions that we take now will in fact save lives. That we are sure of.”
DeWine recommended Ohioans avoid large crowds, stop shaking hands and wash their hands.
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is community spread of the coronavirus, called COVID-19, which is a respiratory disease marked by fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
Those with chronic diseases and compromised immune systems, the elderly and health care workers are most at risk, she said.
“When you are in a household with someone who is at risk, treat yourself as if you have the disease and take the same precautions and that’s how we can protect our most vulnerable,” Acton said.
How to get COVID-19 information
An Ohio call center will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and can be reached at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).
Acton noted there is a lag time between diagnosis and hospitalization of nine to 12 days and deaths occur three to six weeks later in other countries.
“So, we just don’t know enough yet. But we know it is increasingly risky the older you get and if you are already having health conditions.”
Roughly 75 polling locations inside nursing homes across Ohio will be moved and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is expected to make an announcement regarding voting in schools, DeWine said.
Early voting by mail or in person is underway now for the March 17 primary.
Ballots postmarked by Election Day are counted.
The governor said no decision has been made regarding upcoming NCAA basketball tournament games scheduled to be held in Ohio but the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation canceled a safety conference that was expected to draw 8,000 attendees this week.
“All things are certainly open. Again, we’re going to be advised by our advisory group of doctors about those things,” DeWine said when asked if spectators at NCAA games may be banned. “As this moves forward and situations are analyzed, you’re going to get announcements from us every single day.”
Last week, Acton signed an order prohibiting spectators from most events at the Arnold Sports Fitness in Columbus. The move was intended to prevent spread of the virus among the 200,000 spectators and 22,000 athletes from 80 countries.
DeWine said he is not taking action to cancel planned political rallies scheduled to be held in Cleveland Tuesday night by Democrats Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders nor has he asked President Trump to not hold any campaign rally he may want to do in Ohio before the March 17 primary.
“I will simply say that a gathering of a lot of people is probably not a great idea. They have a right to do it as the First Amendment,” DeWine said.
DeWine said the state of emergency order gives Ohio legal authority to take steps such as purchasing items and equipment and opening the operations center will improve communications.
“This will change people’s lives for a while and the whole goal is to make sure Ohioans are safe. We have to focus on that,” DeWine said.
“This is a once in 50-year situation and we’re seeing sort of the psyche of the whole country wake up to this and adjust moment by moment,” Dr. Acton said.
The number of potential cases and the results of testing are regularly updated every weekday at coronavirus.ohio.gov. The website also has more information on prevention and preparedness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has an extensive list of answers to frequently asked questions, sorted by category, at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov. The CDC also regularly posts the latest news on COVID-19 on the website.
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What is COVID-19?
The virus at the center of the outbreak, COVID-19, is part of a large family of different coronaviruses that may cause mild to severe respiratory illnesses. Many people have had some type of coronavirus in their life, such as common cold.
Sometimes a novel — or a new type — of coronavirus starts to circulate among people.
This happened with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2014, and now COVID-19, which started spreading in December.
Health officials are continuing to learn more about the new disease and the outbreak.
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton has said COVID-19 symptoms, which generally appear two to 14 days after exposure, include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
Most people who become sick do not require hospitalization, but older adults, people with chronic health conditions, and people with compromised immune systems have been more likely to require more advanced care.
Globally, as of Monday afternoon there were 111,400 confirmed cases, with 80,735 in mainland China, followed by 7,478 in South Korea, and 7,375 in Italy. There were 603 people confirmed sick with the virus in the U.S.
There have been 3,892 deaths and 62,392 people have recovered.
How to prevent COVID-19 and other illnesses
Good prevention measures are also the same steps that should be taken to reduce the spread of other common illnesses such as the flu, which has already hospitalized more than 8,500 Ohioans this season.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Eat well balanced meals and get adequate sleep.
- Wash hands often with water and soap for 20 seconds or longer.
- Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands or after touching surfaces.
- Clean and disinfect “high touch” surfaces often, such as door handles.
- Call before seeing your doctor.
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