Slowing coronavirus spread in Ohio: ‘We’re all in this together’

Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday announced more measures aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus, helping Ohioans manage during the crisis and keeping health care workers safe as the number of confirmed cases hit 13.

After announcing K-12 schools would close for three weeks beginning Monday, DeWine said Ohio got federal permission to allow school districts to deliver food to students on free or reduced meal plans and districts would continue to provide instruction for Ohio’s 1.7 million students via online or take-home methods.

“We will work with school leaders to make sure they have the flexibility that they need,” DeWine said.

Ohio will also send a request to the Trump administration for additional flexibility on federal rules and regulations and ask for access to the national stockpile of personal protective equipment — PPEs — worn by first responders, doctors and nurses when caring for infectious patients.

“We’ve known all along there are shortages (of PPE,)” said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton on Friday. Healthcare workers are taking measures to conserve, Ohio has a stash of PPE and the state will get some from the national stockpile, she said on Friday.

DeWine also warned that daycare centers may have to be closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus so parents should prepare. He also recommended that families able to pull children from daycare now should do so.

Ohio Chancellor of Higher Education Randy Gardner said universities would pursue policies to move nearly all students out of dormitories, except those who are former foster care youths, international students and those who have no place to move to. Ohio State University this week told students to begin moving out of its residence halls.

The latest numbers of confirmed cases in Ohio rose to 13: eight men, five women, ranging in age from 34- to 66-years-old. No one had died from the coronavirus in Ohio.


What symptoms should you watch for

What steps to take to prevent illness

The Butler County General Health District on Friday announced that four of seven members of a family tested for coronavirus received positive results. The four who tested positive are quarantined at home, two awaiting test results are quarantined at home and one awaiting a result is in a local hospital.

Jenny Bailer, the health district’s director, said five of the family members are in their 30s and two are in their 70s. Officials said they are not classifying the cases as the result of community spread, and they’re working to learn more about how the virus was contracted.

Stopping spread

Dr. Acton said numerous interventions are being taken now to slow the spread of the virus so that Ohio’s health care system isn’t overwhelmed with a caseload spike.

“Somebody has this famous quote — on the front end of a pandemic you look a little bit like an alarmist, you look a little bit like a Chicken Little, the sky is falling. And on the back end of a pandemic, you didn’t do enough. That is your fate in my world.

That will be the fate of all of this because whenever a pandemic has come and gone or any infectious disease, a preparedness also has an end evaluation,” Dr. Acton said. Learning from previous pandemics informs what to do in future ones, she said.

Dr. Acton said there are four simple rules of what’s being implemented now:

— if you’re sick, stay home and isolate.

— if someone in your household is sick, you stay home too.

— practice social distancing.

— closing schools.

In the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, St. Louis took early, aggressive action while Philadelphia waited two weeks to take the same measures, Dr. Acton said.

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Working together

DeWine had a message for Ohioans who are hoarding toilet paper and other supplies. “I would tell people to be prudent. We’re all in this together. If you go in there and wipe out a whole shelf of whatever something is, it’s probably not helpful to your friends,” the governor said.

Ohio law gives the state Department of Health extraordinary powers when it comes to quarantine and isolation and the preservation of life and health. The state department as well as local health districts can rely on a long list of authorities, including police officers, to enforce quarantine and isolation orders.

Ohio has 114 local health departments that work in concert with state and federal public health authorities. Temporary boards of health were first established to respond to cholera epidemics in the 1830s in Ohio.

Getting a test

Sarah Hackenbract, president and CEO of Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, said there have been people coming to area hospitals requesting a test for the coronavirus and that puts hospitals in a difficult position because it is not something an individual can request.

“People really need to work with their primary care provider, who knows them, who knows their health history, to know whether they need this particular test,” Hackenbract said.

Local hospitals are tracking capacity and monitoring supplies and information can be updated in real-time.

The board of trustees activated a regional task force for COVID-19. It includes the executive leadership of all of the hospitals in the region and their designated clinical leaders. The hospitals have activated their incident command systems.

She said capacity is not an issue at this time. She said it is a potential for concern with community spread, which is why hospitals are preparing for this and why officials are emphasizing that people keep a social distance to reduce the spread.

In Montgomery County

Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper of Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County and other public officials provided said a number of steps are being taken to help the less fortunate in the county.

As the virus grows rapidly and unfolds across the country and globally, Cooper said, “we believe that as a system of partners gathered here today, that it is important to speak with one voice, one location and update our community so they don’t have to search multiple venues to get up-to-date information.”

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Jennifer Wentzel, director of the Montgomery County Environmental Health, said her group is working with restaurants and businesses to let them know what extra precautions they should take, including keeping point-of-sale areas clean as well as restrooms and areas where customers come into contact with. She noted that employers must be vigilant and recognize that sick employees must stay home.

She added that Public Health has recommended that salad bars and buffets at restaurants shutdown.

Dayton Municipal Court Clerk of Courts Mark Owens said municipal court judges issued an administrative order on Thursday to postpone eviction cases. The cases will not be heard until after April 30.

Mayor Nan Whaley said the city will suspend water shutoff to April 30 and help with food delivery to those in need. City officials are also working on strategies to help businesses that are hurting financially due to ramifications from the virus.

Trusted sources for the latest coronavirus info:

Ohio Department of Health, 833-4-ASK-ODH,

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

Public Health call center, 937-225-6217, will be staffed Monday to Friday, 8 am to 4 pm for general COVID-19 related questions.

Coronavirus: What can you do to prevent it:

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them with a clean towel or air dry them.

Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.

Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing.

Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

Stay home when you are sick.

Avoid contact with people who are sick.

Clean high-touch areas, such as doorknobs, light switches, bathroom fixtures and tables, everyday.

Avoid mass gatherings.

Sources: CDC, Ohio Department of Health

Timeline of public health actions in Ohio:

March 3: Gov. Mike DeWine and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announce The Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus would be banned to spectators.

March 9: Three cases of coronavirus infections in Ohio are confirmed; DeWine declares a state of emergency, halts visits at state prisons and youth detention centers, asks colleges and universities to shift to online learning, asks indoor sporting events to voluntarily ban spectators.

March 10: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose urges Ohioans to vote early, calls for more poll workers and orders more than 100 polls located at senior centers to be moved.

March 11: Fourth case is confirmed. DeWine places limits on nursing home visitors.

March 12: Fifth case is confirmed. Orders are issued by the DeWine administration to shut down K-12 schools for three weeks starting March 17, prohibit mass gatherings of more than 100, and ban visitors at nursing homes and state psychiatric hospitals.

March 13: Thirteen cases are confirmed.