‘Coronavirus is amongst us’: 26 cases confirmed in Ohio at Saturday press conference

Gov. Mike DeWine and other administration leadership address the latest in the coronavirus outbreak response. LAURA BISCHOFF/STAFF
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Gov. Mike DeWine and other administration leadership address the latest in the coronavirus outbreak response. LAURA BISCHOFF/STAFF

There are now 26 confirmed cases in Ohio and 264 people are under investigation for coronavirus the Ohio Department of Health reported Saturday.

“What you’re seeing is what we expected,” DeWine said. “This should not alarm people, we knew this was coming. Many people have this virus, many people are spreading it, many people will never know they had it.” Eight counties in total have reports of coronavirus: Two in Belmont County, four in Butler County, 11 in Cuyahoga County, one in Franklin County, one in Lorain County, three in Stark County, two in summit and two in Trumbull County.

Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said “coronavirus is amongst us.” She said that many people may have had the virus and not known it and preventative measures are important at this point in the virus’ spread. More and more hospitals are prepared to test for the virus, DeWine said.

>> Coronavirus: Complete coverage

Acton said that there have been seven people hospitalized, but nobody in Ohio has died of coronavirus.

As more cases are reported, health professionals will focus less on those who are being investigated and more on those who are already ill, Acton said. 
Lori Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services said that video visitation is available for mental hospitals and she is working to create a tele-health landline for mental health and addiction help.

The State of Ohio is working on a plan to ensure that they have adequate medication is available for those with mental health concerns during the pandemic, Criss said.

Criss acknowledged that people may be experiencing anxieties, even grief due to the social isolation and cancellations during the pandemic.

She enforced that getting information from trusted sources such as the Ohio Department of Health and the coronavirus hotline can help alleviate some anxiety about the virus, as well as taking a break of media where people may see a constant stream of stories about the virus.

She encourages people to watch for signs of harmful anxiety in themselves or friends and family, such as turning to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, and to reach out to professionals for help if signs emerge.

DeWine spoke about reaching out to help within communities. If someone needs assistance with an errand or chore, such as watching children who may be out of school. He also encouraged those who have been hoarding supplies to share with those who may not have been able to get necessary items. He announced that volunteer opportunities would become available as time went on.

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Medical professionals were encouraged to postpone elective surgeries for the time being to ensure hospital resources were available for potential patients.

Acton discussed a shortage of appropriate medical masks for healthcare professionals and how that can affect the outbreak. Healthcare professionals are doing their best to conserve masks for patients and healthcare professionals who need them.

“We’ve got to take the healthcare situation very very seriously,” she said.

Acton acknowledged that preventative measures seem drastic, but she pointed out that the measures can protect more than just us, using the common saying of “six degrees to Kevin Bacon.”

“This isn’t about Kevin Bacon, it’s about Kevin Bacon’s grandmother,” she said.

Acton said that healthy people who may have the virus are encouraged to stay home and ride the virus out to help preserve resources for those who may suffer severe consequences from the virus.

“This is more than a two-mile race,” DeWine said. “We don’t know how fast it goes back down.”

DeWine said that at this point, daycare facilities should not be closed, but hopes that parents will make the decision to keep their children home as much as possible to prevent spread there.