2020 coronavirus pandemic in Ohio
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The American state of Ohio was affected by the viral pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Acting on advice from Ohio's Department of Health director Amy Acton, Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency on March 9 when the state had only three confirmed cases and no deaths. Acton issued a stay-at-home order effective March 23.
|2020 coronavirus pandemic in Ohio|
COVID-19 cases in Ohio by counties as of April 7, 2020 at 2pm
>100 confirmed cases
10-99 confirmed cases
1–9 confirmed cases
|Index case||Cuyahoga County|
|Arrival date||February 15, 2020|
Ohio's first cases were reported March 9, and the first death was reported on March 19. Later tests showed cases starting February 15 and the first death March 17. As of April 8, 2020, Ohio had 5,148 confirmed cases of the virus. There were 1,495 cases of COVID-19 that resulted in hospitalization and 193 cases that resulted in death.
On March 27, Acton projected Ohio cases to peak in mid-May at 10,000 per day. By the first week in April, crediting Ohioan's compliance with social distancing requests, she had revised the projection to mid-to-late April or early May.
Spread of virusEdit
On March 9, Governor Mike DeWine reported Ohio's first 3 cases in Cuyahoga County, a couple who had returned from a Nile River cruise, and a man who had returned from an annual conference in Washington, DC where other cases of coronavirus had been reported. Two days later, a fourth case, and the first instance of community spread, was confirmed by DeWine in Stark County.
By March 13, there were a total of 13 cases, with 159 others under observation. Within a week the first death was announced. Mark Wagoner, Sr, a prominent Toledo attorney and friend of DeWine, died March 19.
By April 8 there were 5,148 cases, 1,495 hospitalizations including 472 ICU admissions, and 193 deaths. Of Ohio's 88 counties, 82 had at least one case. Twenty percent of the cases involved healthcare workers.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was one of the first state governors to "sound the alarm" about the coronavirus threat, taking action before Ohio had many confirmed cases. Axios called him "among the leading governors in the country sounding the alarm about the threat of the coronavirus." The Washington Post called his and Acton's response "a national guide to the crisis", pointing out numerous occasions when moves taken by Ohio were soon followed by other states. The Hill said he'd "been one of the most aggressive governors in responding to the pandemic".
On March 3, when the state had no confirmed cases, DeWine made the decision to cancel the Arnold Classic, a move which the Washington Post said seemed radical at the time. The estimated economic impact for the state was $53 million.
DeWine declared a state of emergency on March 9 while the state had only 3 cases. That same day he asked colleges and universities to go to online classes. Within days many colleges and universities had taken steps to comply.
On March 12, DeWine announced that all schools from K-12 would close for a 3-week break, starting March 16; he was the first governor to announce statewide school closings. The Ohio Department of Education updated their guidelines for ensuring schoolchildren received meals, announcing that each district would make independent decisions about providing reduced and free breakfast and lunch to students during the break but encouraging districts to ensure needs were met and stating the department would continue to reimburse districts for meals served during the closure.
Also on March 12, Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton instituted a ban on gatherings of more than 100, with exemptions for airports, workplaces, restaurants, religious gatherings, weddings and funerals. Despite having only thirteen confirmed cases at the time, Ohio officials were predicting that there were over 100,000 cases in the state. Department of Health director Acton compared the small number of cases to "seeing a star and knowing that light is a moment from the deep past" as she argued for Ohioans to take steps to prevent further infections that could overload the state's hospitals. State Representative Emilia Sykes called Acton "the real MVP of Ohio's coronavirus response."
DeWine and Acton on March 14 recommended Ohioans postpone elective surgeries.
DeWine and Acton ordered the closure of all bars and restaurants starting 9:00 PM EDT March 15, 2020, saying the government "encouraged restaurants to offer carryout or delivery service, but he said they would not be allowed to have people congregating in the businesses." DeWine said he was "concerned that with St. Patrick's Day coming up Tuesday, people would ignore warnings and go out to bars." Closing of the state's estimated 22,000 restaurants was expected to affect some 500,000 workers. DeWine instituted a liquor buyback program and expanded Ohio's unemployment insurance to cover laid-off restaurant workers. The state waived the qualifying waiting period as well as the requirement that individuals receiving jobless benefits must seek new employment. The action also was extended to workers who are under quarantine or those who work in health care. DeWine announced his intention to close daycares and recommended parents remove their children from daycare if possible.
DeWine said of the closings:
Establishments can stay open for carry-out and delivery. What we can't have is people congregating and seated. Every day we delay, more people will die. If we do not act and get some distance between people, our health care system in Ohio will not hold up. The loss won't only be those impacted by COVID19, but the danger is also to everyone else who needs hospital care for other issues."— Mike DeWine
When our hospital systems are overwhelmed, that means if you are having a birth that you are planning, if you are in a car accident and need your hospital, if you have a stroke or an MI, even if you never get coronavirus, people in this country can die from something other than coronavirus.— Amy Acton
On March 16, DeWine banned gatherings of more than 50 people and on March 17 he ordered that all elective surgeries be postponed; controversially, the state government indicated that this included abortions. On March 18, DeWine announced that 181 BMV locations will close until further notice. Five will stay open to process commercial driver license applications and renewal. DeWine asked the state legislature to pass a grace period for people whose licenses expired. Barbershops, salons, and tattoo parlors closed. Businesses that do stay open will have to take every employee's temperature every day before they start work and send anyone with a temperature over 100.4F home; DeWine warned that if businesses did not comply he would close all nonessential businesses. Mayor Andrew Ginther declared a state of emergency in Columbus, Ohio.
On March 19 Governor DeWine signed state active duty proclamation that will activate 300 personnel from the Ohio National Guard to help with humanitarian efforts. On March 20 DeWine ordered senior citizens centers to close by March 23. The next day he closed adult day services serving more than ten people at a time, saying he had delayed closing them until ensuring provision had been made to care for those served in them.
On March 22, Acton issued a statewide stay-at-home order to take effect from midnight on March 23 to through April 6, requiring the closure of nonessential businesses. DeWine ordered most childcare facilities to close beginning March 26. The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy approved restrictions on the dispensing of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.
DeWine said that because of the economic fallout from the closures, the state would need to slow down the rate of spending...rather dramatically," announcing on March 23 a hiring freeze for the state, a freeze on new contract services, and a continuation of the freeze on state employee travel. He asked cabinet members to find budget cuts of 20%. According to Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, Ohio would at the request of the Trump administration desist from publicizing unemployment figures.
On March 24 Jim Bridenstine announced that a number of NASA facilities would be moved to stage 4 where non-critical infrastructure is closed, including the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and the Plum Brook Station near Sandusky.
Acton on March 24 estimated that Ohio was 7 to 14 days behind New York state, which at the time was overwhelmed. On March 26 Acton announced that 17, 316 Ohioans had been tested. On March 27 Acton said the state was at that time expecting cases to peak in mid-May at 10,000 new cases per day.
On March 25, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 197, which does many things, such as extending primary voting to April 28, banning water utilities from disconnecting service, and waiving standardized testing for public schools.
On April 2, Governor DeWine announced during his daily press conference that there is a new method to divide the state into hospital capacity regions.
On April 3, Dewine extended the Ohio's stay at home order through May 1 with new restrictions: campgrounds must close, all retail businesses must post signs limiting how many are allowed in at one time, and wedding receptions are limited to 10 people. The order also establishes a state board to evaluate what is and is not an essential business.
On April 4 Ohio recommended the wearing of cloth face masks when leaving home as a way to protect others.
Effectiveness of government responseEdit
Ohio's 2020 primary elections were scheduled to be held Tuesday, March 17. DeWine, Acton, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose held an afternoon press conference on Monday, March 16 to cover precautions being taken for the next day's primary election. LaRose issued an order to county boards of election allowing curbside voting.
DeWine recommended pushing the primaries into June but did not think he had the authority to change the date. DeWine and LaRose sought a court order to close down the elections, having former Ohio Department of Aging Director Judith Brachman file a suit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to delay the election, but Judge Richard A. Frye denied it, saying it would set a "terrible precedent" and would represent a judge rewriting election code hours before an election.
Acton, who according to the Columbus Dispatch "has enormous powers during a health emergency", eventually announced at 10:08 pm that polls would be closed as a "health emergency." DeWine announced that LaRose would "seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options so that every voter who wants to vote will be granted that opportunity."
A suit was filed in the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn Acton's action by Perrysburg attorney Andy Mayle on behalf of a candidate for a Wood County Common Pleas judgeship, Corey Spiewak. The court ordered the state to respond to the suit by 1:30 am Tuesday, saying that "Due to exigent circumstances, this matter will be decided on the complaint and answer. No requests or stipulations for extension of time shall be filed, and the clerk of the court shall refuse to file any requests or stipulations for extension of time. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Solicitor General Benjamin M. Flowers filed an answer on behalf of LaRose. A decision denying the writ was issued by four justices. The three who did not participate in the decision were Judith French and Sharon Kennedy, both of whom were running for re-election, and Pat DeWine, who is the governor's son.
Private sector responseEdit
In late March Battelle Labs in Columbus developed a technology to sterilize N95 masks for reuse, intending to provide 160,000 masks per day in Ohio and to send sterilizing machines to other areas of the US. On March 29 the FDA approved the technology for limited use of up to 10,000 sterilizations per day. DeWine issued a press release condemning this decision that afternoon. Later on March 29, the FDA changed their position, and allowed full use of the technology.
According to Acton, as of March 24 Ohio had 3600 ICU beds and would need to increase that capacity by 50%. In Ohio about 26% of patients require hospitalization and about 11% need intensive care. As of March 24, Ohio hospitals were at 60% of capacity. In southwest Ohio, hospital executives said they could increase capacity by 20% to 50%.
Acton said on March 24 that Ohio was converting anesthesia machines to respirators, considering which other buildings could be converted into makeshift hospitals, and determining how to safely reuse personal protective equipment such as masks.
On March 17, after Acton issued an order prohibiting nonessential surgeries to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), DeWine said abortions should be included except when the pregnant woman's life is at risk. Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson sent letters to three abortion providers to compel them to comply with the state ban on nonessential medical procedures. District Court judge Michael Barrett ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood on April 1, ordering a two week suspension of the ban. The State of Ohio appealed Barrett's decision and asked him to put a hold on his order until the appeal was decided, which he declined to do. State of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost later clarified that all medical abortions were still allowed, and that "doctors remain free to perform surgical abortions necessary for a mother's health or life, and also surgical abortions that cannot be delayed without jeopardizing the patient's abortion rights." On April 6, the State's request for an appeal was dismissed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
NPR reported on March 24 that "Almost 140,000 people filed for unemployment benefits in Ohio last week compared with fewer than 5,000 a week earlier." On April 7, when asked about delays in filing, Lieutenant Governor Husted said over 500 additional employees had been hired to process applications, bringing the number of employees of Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services to 829 employees.
On March 10 Dewine asked colleges and universities to go to remote classes. Within several days many private and public colleges and universities had announced campus closings and a move to online classes. On March 12 DeWine closed all K-12 schools starting March 16. On March 30 he extended those closings to May 1.
- The Catholic Conference of Ohio suspended all public Masses in Ohio from March 16 through Easter at the earliest, dispensing with the obligation to attend Sunday Mass through Easter.
- The Genoa Baptist Church of Westerville, Ohio switched to a drive in format.
- The Bishop of the East Ohio conference of the United Methodist Church urged the temporary closing of Methodist churches.
On the restaurant industryEdit
The closing of restaurants and bars affected 22,000 restaurants across the state and 500,000 workers. On March 20 a group of Cincinnati restaurateurs called on the federal government to provide a $225 billion bailout to the US restaurant industry.
Most of state's sports teams were affected. Several leagues began postponing or suspending their seasons starting 12 March. Major League Baseball cancelled the remainder of spring training on that date, and on March 16, they announced that the season will be postponed indefinitely, after the recommendations from the CDC to restrict events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, affecting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. Also on March 12, the National Basketball Association announced the season would be suspended for 30 days, affecting the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the National Hockey League, the season was suspended for an indefinite amount of time, affecting the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association cancelled all winter and spring tournaments, most notably the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments, affecting colleges and universities statewide. On March 16, the National Junior College Athletic Association also canceled the remainder of the winter seasons as well as the spring seasons.
On public transportationEdit
In early March, as the pandemic began affecting Columbus, the city's public transit ridership began dropping, approximately 40 percent. Its public transit agency COTA began by introducing thorough cleaning measures, followed by reducing several rush hour services on March 17. On March 19, it suspended fare collection, making all rides temporarily free, and required passengers to board and depart buses from the rear doors. On the same day, it also modified all rush hour lines, and suspended its AirConnect and Night Owl services. On March 20, the agency recommended only using its services for essential travel; two days later it shut down several rush hour services and reduced frequencies of nine crosstown lines. On March 24, it stopped all rush hour services until further notice. On March 26, the agency began "dynamic service" to pick up customers left at bus stops by too-full buses; the agency's current policy is for a maximum of 20 passengers per bus.
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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in his update Sunday Dr. Amy Acton is ordering a stay at home order or shelter in place order for all Ohioans. The order is in effect beginning midnight Monday and is in effect through April 6. … DeWine said it is time to close most daycares, as well. All childcare centers, beginning on Thursday, must operate under a Temporary Pandemic Child Care license.
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