Ohio Department of Health

Eight deaths from COVID-19 (coronavirus) have been confirmed by the Ohio Department of Health as of Tuesday afternoon. One of these eight deaths occurred in Southeastern Ohio’s Gallia County.

As of Tuesday, March 24 at 2 p.m., there were 564 confirmed cases of the disease in Ohio with 145 people hospitalized. There have been eight confirmed deaths in Ohio from the disease. The eight deaths have taken place in the following counties: Gallia County, 1; Franklin County, 2; Cuyahoga County, 2; Erie County, 1, Lucas County, 1; and Stark County, 1.

Of those who are hospitalized for the virus, 62 are in intensive care units (ICU), 25 of whom are from long-term care facilities.

“As we’ve seen in other states, nursing homes/long-term care, particularly, are hard hit,” said Ohio Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton, M.D., MPH.

Ages of currently-confirmed cases in Ohio are from less than 1 year old to 95 years old.

With cases now in 49 counties, the virus has been confirmed in more than half of Ohio’s 88 counties. Acton said on Monday that there are numerous clusters of cases in the state that are under investigation.

New numbers were announced just prior to and during Tuesday’s daily press conference concerning COVID-19 with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Dr. Acton, and Lt. Governor Jon Husted.

Among the newest counties with confirmed cases is Pike County’s neighbor, Highland County, which borders Pike County’s west side (see related story in this edition of the News Watchman).

The Highland County Health Department and the Highland County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) reported Highland County’s first case of COVID-19 Coronavirus on March 23, according to information from the Highland County General Health District.

“The case is a female in her 60’s, and is recovering well at home,” according to the Highland County General Health District.

“The current case is not associated with travel outside of the state, and has no known ties to other COVID-19 cases. This is an example of community acquired (community spread) Coronavirus COVID-19, which indicates that other unknown cases are in Highland County.”

Dr. Acton indicated recently that some of the counties with cases represent outlying counties where patients are actually from.

“As I’ve said all along, we are very limited in our testing right now,” Dr. Acton said during Monday’s press conference. “We do have many pending testing kits that are at private labs.”

Dr. Acton also warned about this on Saturday, stating that data coming in is not reflective of the true extent of COVID-19 in Ohio.

“This data is a snapshot of the past because everything points to the fact that we had a seeding of COVID-19 in Ohio early on, yet we were one of the last states to get the reagents we needed to do testing,” said Dr. Acton. “This data is not telling the full story of what is happening here.

“Even the data you see in the future is minimal because we are conserving all our available testing for the most high-risk and hospitalized front-line workers. We are withholding most of our testing because we are running out of reagent to conduct these tests.”

On March 18, Dr. Acton said that current case numbers are “only an example of mostly history” and are “just the tip of the iceberg of what’s actually happening in Ohio.” On Tuesday, she used the “tip of the iceberg” phrase again to describe the numbers.

On Monday, Dr. Acton said that some of the testing is being done in-house and some in private labs.

“Those private labs are lagging quite a bit, so we really need all our hospitals to report ASAP their data to the Ohio Department of Health and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),” she said. “We have to know the results of those tests as they occur. It really helps us do our work a lot better.”

“This virus is, as we have said, we believe is twice as contagious as the flu and is 20 times as deadly,” DeWine has stated. “It is coming after us, and we have to take whatever action is necessary to preserve the lives of the people of the State of Ohio.”

On Monday and Tuesday, Dr. Acton also spoke about the need for personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves, medical gowns, face shields, goggles, etc., needed by first responders, doctors, and other medical personnel.

“We have a very limited supply we have received federally, and we have a small cache that we have here in our state,” she said. “We are getting that out to our local health departments today (March 23) … We’re saving 20 percent back, but everything we have is going out today so that we can arm folks on the frontline. In the meantime, we’re awaiting federal shipments of more PPE, which we need desperately, and our businesses here in Ohio are starting production and working on ways that we can create our own.”

Dr. Acton said that local health departments receiving PPE from the state should not be expecting large truckloads but rather small boxes of PPE.

“That is the truth,” she said. “That is reality … We’re getting everything we have out to you except a very small amount we’re holding back for some of the clusters and really acute situations.”

DeWine said that, on average, over a 24-hour period, 36 pairs of gloves are used to care for one patient in intensive care.

“We are clearly moving up our curve,” Dr. Acton said, speaking again about flattening the infection rate curve of the coronavirus.

The curve is often depicted on graphs when coronavirus is discussed. In an article on the news website, thehill.com, Anagha Srikanth explains the curve as representing “the number of people who contract COVID-19 over a period of time.”

“A high curve is created by a steep increase in the number of cases per day followed by a quick decrease,” she reported. “A flatter curve is created by a more gradual increase in the number of cases per day and a more gradual decrease. Over a long period of time, the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus might be about the same, but the difference is in the number of cases each day.”

A more gradual curve is hoped to keep hospitals and healthcare systems from being overwhelmed as they have been in some other countries, causing excruciating life and death decisions to have to be made by medical personnel.

DeWine indicated that we flatten the curve in two ways — by social distancing and by working on the capacity of beds in healthcare systems and the capacity of equipment, PPE.

“We have to flatten that curve,” DeWine said on Tuesday. “We have to do everything we can to separate ourselves from others. We have to do everything we can so that when this wave comes — and we know it’s coming — it’s not as big as it would have been and that we’re prepared for it.”

“We are in a situation in the short term where we have to do everything in our power to get people to stay at home,” Acton said on Monday. “We have absolutely got to slow the spread, which we can only do by really great contact investigation and testing, which we have very limited supplies of, and by keeping people doing social distancing. The lockdown that you’re hearing about, that is going on, which is really our Stay At Home Order, is crucial in these next few weeks.

“There will be phases to this, but when you look at where we are here in states right now, we have got to stay home while we build up the other side of the equation — stop transmitting, stop spread — other side, build hospital capacity. We know that we have an extensive shortage of that, and we are working tirelessly on getting supplies to our hospitals, getting new personnel out of retirement (and) med students and building up our personnel, and literally building hospitals and beds.

“That is the equation. That is the playbook in the war right now. There’s a false equivalency (that) every one of these decisions is either health or economics. They are both. They are inextricably linked.”

Acton told Ohio residents on Tuesday that “what you’re doing by stopping the spread is absolutely taking the pressure off our healthcare system, saving it for those of us who need it, you know, the unexpected emergencies that we routinely have, and most importantly, for the cases that we know (are) to come.”

Dr. Acton said that in a worst-case scenario if Ohio did nothing to slow the spread of the virus “they are anticipating that there could be up to 6,000 new cases a day if we aren’t all abiding by these things we are doing.”

“And if you had 6,000 new cases a day, clearly, that would quickly outpace our hospital capability, and that’s why every move you’re doing is making all the difference, so thank you,” she said.

Dr. Acton stated recently that being tested and found negative for the virus does not necessarily mean that a person does not have the disease.

“Even if I were tested today and was negative, it does not meant that I don’t have the disease right now. It might just be too early in the disease process,” she said.

She has also said that you can still get the disease even if you have tested negative for it.

The Ohio Department of Health’s Frequently Asked Questions concerning Ohio’s Stay At Home Order can be found at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/home/stay-at-home-information/stay-at-home-order-frequently-asked-questions

One of the questions addresses what to do if your home is not a safe environment in which to stay:

”If it is not safe for you to remain home, you are able and urged to find another safe place to stay during this order. Please reach out so we can help. You may call the Ohio Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-934-9840 or contact your local law enforcement,” according to the Ohio Department of Health.

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 mlucas@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @NewsWatchman.

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