Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, March 18 newspaper on Page A1.
Writer’s Note: This story outlines events regarding COVID-19 from March 9 through March 16 throughout the state of Ohio. No confirmed case of COVID-19 have been reported in Jackson nor Vinton Counties.
Health officials and government leaders passed multiple mandates over the last few days in response to a growing number of confirmed cases COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus, in the state of Ohio.
The Courier has provided a timeline of information passed down from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health.
Monday, March 9
DeWine announced that the first three Ohioans had tested positive for COVID-19. The three individuals were all from Cuyahoga County.
“It’s important for us to take aggressive action to protect Ohioans, and therefore, I have declared a state of emergency in Ohio,” stated DeWine. “The state of emergency that I’ve declared in Ohio is a legal necessity that allows state departments and agencies to better coordinate in their response.”
It should be noted that just two days earlier, on Sunday, March 7, DeWine had announced that the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) was able to test for COVID-19 in its lab. At that point of time, Ohio had no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Tuesday, March 10
More precautionary measures to slow down the spread of the virus were taken by DeWine.
- Higher Education: DeWine asked all universities and colleges in Ohio to screen students returning to school from international travel or cruises, including, but not limited to, students returning from spring break travel. DeWine also asked that any university-sponsored international travel, non-essential travel, and large gatherings be canceled or postponed. Higher education institutions should also consider offering online/remote learning.
- K–12 Schools: DeWine was not currently recommending the closure of elementary, middle, and high schools, however, school administrators should begin planning for that possibility. Parents should also begin planning for the potential that they may need to stay home with their children or find alternate child care solutions.
- Athletics: DeWine had recommended that all indoor high school, college, and professional sports competitions be held without spectators. He asks that events take place only with athletes, parents, sporting officials, and media. Right now, outdoor sporting events can continue as planned.
- General Large Gatherings: Generally, Governor DeWine recommends that organizers of any events involving a large gathering of individuals in close proximity be canceled or postponed, such as parades.
- Religious Institutions: DeWine recommends that all religious institutions consider limiting practices that could spread germs, such as shaking hands or sharing a communal cup of wine during communion. Those in faith-based communities who are high-risk should consider staying home. Faith-based communities should also consider appropriate outreach to those who may not be able to attend regular services.
- Nursing Homes: Because nursing homes house Ohio’s most high-risk residents, it was recommended that nursing homes screen all visitors, including volunteers and vendors, for symptoms of contagious illnesses.
- Adult and Juvenile Correctional Facilities: DeWine had ordered that visitations at Ohio’s adult and juvenile corrections facilities be suspended. Contractors who are not critical to the workings of the facility will not be granted entrance. Those who are permitted into these facilities will be screened for symptoms of illness and must submit to a temperature reading.
Wednesday, March 11
Two days after the first three confirmed cases, DeWine announced that a fourth case of COVID-19 was confirmed. The individual was from Stark County, and had no travel history outside the US, meaning it was the first case of “community spread.”
“Community spread is a game-changer,” stated DeWine. “You’re going to see us taking more aggressive actions now. Please know that we’re doing this to protect Ohioans and protect our healthcare system.”
DeWine said, “We expect Ohio’s COVID-19 cases to continue to grow as the virus spreads and the number of tests performed increases.”
Dewine announced new orders:
- Nursing Homes/Assisted Living: DeWine issued an order limiting visitors to one per day per resident. There must be a single point of entry – and everyone will be screened for temperature/potential illness. Visitor logs must be kept.
ODH Director Amy Acton added, “We know this disease is spreading in the United States. We have some hard months ahead with social disruption, but we know when we take these actions they make a difference.”
Also on March 11, the World Health Organization declared and labeled the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. A “pandemic” is defined as an epidemic that crosses borders, typically affecting a large number of people.
Thursday, March 12
The following day, DeWine announced that a fifth case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Trumbull County in northwest Ohio.
“We are in a crisis, so we have to treat it like one,” said DeWine.
Other notes from DeWine, as of March 12, include:
- Nursing homes/Assisted Living Facilities have gone from limited (one visitor per resident) to restricting all outside visitors. State psychiatric hospitals are now restricted to no outside visitors as well.
- K-12 Schools across the State of Ohio (Charter, Public and Private) will be closed for three weeks. The closure began on Monday, March 16, and will runs through April 3, 2020.
- Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, as of March 12, has banned large mass gatherings of 100 plus people in a single room or single space in Ohio.
This includes auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, large conference rooms, meeting halls, cafeterias, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. This also includes parades, fairs, and festivals.
This does not apply to typical office environments, restaurants, factories or retail or grocery stores where large groups of people are present but it is unusual for them to be within an arm’s length of one another.
A mass gathering does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, shopping malls, shopping centers or other spaces where 100 or more people may be in transit.
The order does not apply to religious gatherings or gatherings for the purpose of exercising First Amendment protected speech. Voting does not meeting the definition of a mass gathering.
The purpose of these orders, according to DeWine, is to help Ohio keep social distancing.
Friday, March 13
DeWine announced that the number of confirmed cases in Ohio jumped from five to 13.
“In the days ahead, you’re going to see more and more cases of COVID-19,” stated DeWine. “It is all over the state of Ohio. It’s not unexpected, but you will see these numbers significantly increase in the next few days.
Notes from DeWine on March 13:
- DeWine announced that the USDA approved two of Ohio’s waiver requests to keep school breakfast and lunch programs going, while schools are closed. Schools will be able to provide every child under 18 with “grab and go” meals, ensuring that no child goes hungry while school is out.
- DeWine said that the state is not closing daycares at this point in time, but it could happen in the future. Parents using daycares should start thinking about what their alternatives could be.
- DeWine emphasized that anyone over the age of 60 is at significantly increased risk.
If you normally rely on elderly grandparents to provide childcare, please consider alternatives. This is the time where we look to neighbors and friends to provide support.
- Community jails and community corrections facilities throughout the state will be prohibiting visitation. Other protocols will be put into place to screen vendors, contractors, etc.
Saturday, March 14
DeWine announced that the number of COVID-19 cases doubled from 13 to 26.
“This should not alarm anyone, and we predicted that this would happen,” said DeWine. “Many people have COVID-19, but don’t know they have it, and may never know they have it. That is the nature of this problem.”
DeWine added, “COVID-19 is twice as contagious as the flu and 20 times more deadly.”
Notes from DeWine from March 14:
- DeWine stated that there have been 18,000 calls to the Ohio COVID-19 Call Center. The Ohio COVID-19 Call Center number is 1-833-427-5634.
- Ohio’s casinos are closed.
- An order prohibiting visitors in nursing homes was issued: clergy is an exception for end-of-life situations.
- DeWine requested that dentists and veterinarians postpone elective surgeries.
Sunday, March 15
DeWine announced that there were 37 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio.
DeWine also announced that an order to close all bars and restaurants in Ohio, effective at 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, would be happening. DeWine stated that delivery, carry outs and drive-thru services are allowed to stay open. It is unknown how long “dine-in” will be affected at this time.
“I’m aware that this will impact many, many good workers,” stated DeWine. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, but we will work to mitigate the suffering. It is our goal for everyone to get through this.”
To assist Ohio workers directly impacted by the COVID-19 health emergency, DeWine said he will issue an executive order that makes several changes to Ohio’s unemployment law and state agency policy.
“We are broadening current state policy to clarify that individuals that are quarantined by a health professional or by their employer are considered to be unemployed and will not be subject to requirements to actively seek work during the period of emergency,” explained DeWine.
Ohio currently has a one week waiting period before an individual can receive unemployment. That waiting period has been waived.
Other notes from DeWine on Sunday, March 15:
- Because COVID-19 affects older adults more, DeWine said he will be issuing guidance soon to close Ohio’s senior centers and adult daycare facilities.
“We aren’t ordering that today, but it will be coming up,” said DeWine. “We will work to ensure all elderly adults continue to receive meals.”
- K-12 Schools: “Three weeks likely won’t be enough time to be closed,” said DeWine. “It is likely we will have to extend this order.”
Health officials from the Ohio Department of Health expect the COVID-19 spread may not peak until late April or May.
“It’s important for families to restrict travel right now,” said DeWine. “I’ve advised members of my own family not to travel.”
Monday, March 16
Ultimately, the state’s primary election was postponed in response to growing concerns over COVID-19. Mass gathering prohibitions were also lowered from 100 to 50. Gyms and other recreational facilities were also mandated to close.
State updates from Tuesday, March 17 did not meet our print deadline.
If you have questions related to the Coronavirus, the Ohio COVID-19 public hotline (1-833-427-5634) is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. You can also visit http://coronavirus.ohio.gov.