Ohio Department of Health

Orders issued by the state of Ohio regarding coronavirus/COVID-19 changed this past week, moving from “Stay Safe Ohio” to “Ohioans Protecting Ohioans Urgent Health Advisory”.

“Ohioans take care of Ohioans because that is at the core of who we are, and that is how we are going to save our economy,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday. “What this comes down to now is that each of us has a responsibility to each other to slow the spread (of COVID-19). No other time in our lives will our individual actions play a greater role in saving lives.”

The health order replaces language requiring Ohioans to stay at home with limited exceptions with language that strongly recommends that citizens, especially those who are high-risk (such as those who are 65 years of age or older or individuals with underlying health conditions) , stay at home as much as possible. The order does not change the mass gathering restrictions, which remain at a 10-person limit.

The new health advisory also lifts overall travel restrictions and the requirement to quarantine if someone travels to or returns to Ohio. Unnecessary travel within or outside of Ohio is still not encouraged.

In addition, those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have not recovered, those who are presumptively diagnosed with COVID-19, and those who are exhibiting the symptoms identified in the screening guidance available from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Ohio Department of Health, remain prohibited from entering the state of Ohio unless they are doing so under medical orders for purposes of medical care, are being transported by emergency medical services EMS, are driving or being driven directly to a medical provider for the purposes of initial care, or are a permanent resident of Ohio.

During Thursday’s press conference, Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced several new sector opening dates in Ohio:

Beginning Tuesday, May 26, miniature golf, batting cages, and bowling alleys may resume operations if they can meet required safety protocols.

Beginning Tuesday, May 26, skills training for all sports, including contact sports, may resume if required safety protocols can be met. Tournaments, games, and competitions for contact sports are still prohibited.

Regarding sports, Husted said they had been in conversations with the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

“We had conversations regarding training. Many students are concerned about summer training for sports. We do know that skills training and conditioning for student-athletes is important to start now. Skills training can begin for contact sports like football, basketball and lacrosse, so long as it follows the guidance,” said Husted.

“I want to be clear. This does not mean that tournaments, games or competitions can take place yet. We are all enthusiastic for the days when all sports can resume. Right now, we are focused on the next step for skills training. A change in the health order will allow school buildings and facilities to be used for training. To all of the student-athletes out there, I know you are anxious for more certainty about your future. There’s a reason for optimism, so let the training begin.”

Although there were questions regarding the fall start of school, the governor and lieutenant governor were not ready to address those just yet.

Beginning Monday, June 1, catering and banquet centers may reopen if they can meet required safety protocols. Protocols include six feet between tables, no congregating, and a crowd size of no more than 300 people.

Full guidelines to ensure that these sectors operate in the safest manner possible are/will be available at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/responsible-restart-ohio/Sector-Specific-Operating-Requirements/

Some additional talking points from Thursday’s press conference included addressing minority health disparities, community wellness kits, COVID-19 exposure notification, and mental health grants.

Ohio is partnering with the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers and the Nationwide Foundation to distribute thousands of Community Wellness Kits that contain COVID-19 protection-related items, such as face coverings, hand sanitizer, and soap.

To support both the state and local health departments in efforts to fight COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact on people of color, Ohio will significantly increase the number of public health workers who can help notify Ohioans of possible exposure to the virus.

The hiring of these public health workers is in progress at both the state and local levels with the goal of hiring individuals who represent and reflect the make-up of their own communities.

Governor DeWine’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will award $1 million in grants to provide mental health and addiction services for hard-to-reach individuals.

The grants will allow faith-based and local community-based organizations to develop culturally appropriate messages that target those who may not be as easily reached by mass-media messaging efforts, such as racial and ethnic minorities, Appalachian and rural communities, older adults, and others.

It was also announced during Thursday’s press conference that the Ohio State Fair has been canceled. Governor DeWine is hopeful that at least the junior portion of county fairs can take place this summer.

“The idea of having a state fair this year and that many people coming together probably wouldn’t work. It is a sad day knowing how many people go to the state fair and young people competing at the fairs,” he said.

“Certainly at a minimum, we want to have the junior fairs. This is a work in progress. We will have to see as we move forward.”

Regarding the number of infections, on Friday, the statewide numbers were updated to reflect the following: 30,794 cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, which included 28,758 confirmed cases and 2,036 probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio according to the CDC’s expanded case definition. As of Friday, Ohio was reporting 1,872 COVID-19 deaths in the state, which included 1,691 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 181 probable deaths from COVID-19 according to the CDC’s expanded death definition.

A total of 5,379 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state, including 1,416 admissions to intensive care units. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov

Locally as of Friday afternoon, Pike County had six cases, according to the Pike County General Health District. Five of the cases were listed as recovered, and one case was listed as active. Four of the cases were listed as confirmed cases, and two of the cases were listed as probable cases.

The split is three females and three males between the ages of 25 and 45. Three tests are currently known to be pending in the county, according to the Pike County General Health District.

As more and more locations open and people move about, DeWine is urging Ohioans to wear face masks where appropriate. People have questioned why it wasn’t required earlier.

“We have a standard in place that we did not have before. We are asking people in general to add a mask as an added layer of protection. We didn’t require it a month ago, but we are now because we are opening up.”

“We have guidelines as far as how things can operate,” said Husted. “We are trying to keep spacing and keep people from spreading the virus. We just ask people to follow protocol in certain settings. We are trying to allow people to do the things they can enjoy.”

More detailed information on the Responsible RestartOhio plan can be found at www.coronavirus.ohio.gov/ResponsibleRestartOhio , and a list of mandatory and recommended best practices for various types of businesses and other sectors can be found at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/responsible-restart-ohio/Sector-Specific-Operating-Requirements/Sector-Specific-Operating-Requirements

For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, including tips for prevention of the disease and slowing its spread, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

Email at jbillings@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @ Julie_Billings

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