Ohio Department of Health

As the number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Ohio rises, mass gatherings have been banned in the state, and the state’s kindergarten through 12th grade schools will close for several weeks due to the coronavirus crisis.

As of Friday, there were 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio.

On Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton, M.D., MPH, has signed an order to prohibit mass gatherings, which are defined as any event or convening that brings together 100 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theater, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.

According to the order, this includes parades, fairs, and festivals.

It does not include, however, normal operations of airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers, or other spaces where 100 or more persons may be in transit.

It also does not include typical office environments, schools, restaurants, factories, or retail/grocery stores where large numbers of people are present, but it is unusual for them to be within arm’s length of one another, according to the order.

In addition, the order does not apply to religious gatherings, gatherings for the purpose of the expression of First Amendment protected speech, weddings and funerals.

“Regardless of whether an event or gathering falls within the definition of mass gatherings, all persons are urged to maintain social distancing (approximately six feet away from other people) whenever possible and to continue to wash hands, utilize hand sanitizer and practice proper respiratory etiquette (coughing into elbow, etc.),” the order states.

The order takes effect immediately and will remain until the state of emergency declared by the governor has been rescinded or modified.

According to DeWine’s office, beginning at the conclusion of the school day on Monday, March 16, all K-12 schools will close to students through Friday, April 3. This order includes all public, community, and private K-12 schools in the state, but does not apply to Ohio’s childcare system such as daycare centers and home-based childcare providers.

“During this extended period of closure, schools should work to provide education through alternative means and school district leadership may make decisions on whether to use their school buildings,” according to the governor’s office. “Staff members should continue to report to school as directed by administrators.”

“We want to thank educators and administrators for the extraordinary efforts they will take to continue offering services during this time of national crisis,” said DeWine.

According to DeWine’s office, the Ohio Department of Education will develop guidance for K-12 schools to ensure the continuity of important student services. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved two waiver requests to continue school breakfast and lunch programs during the K-12 school closures. According to DeWine’s office, schools will be permitted to provide every child under 18 with “grab and go” meals, and the Ohio Department of Education will also develop a process to give school districts the unprecedented ability to deliver meals to homes.

On Wendesday, the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Veterans Services issued an order limiting the number of visitors at nursing homes/assisted living facilities to one person per resident per day, with exceptions for end-of-life situations.

“The order (concerning nursing homes/assisted living facilities) will require that these facilities screen all individuals at every point of entry, including employees, vendors, family members, etc. Each individual will be screened for signs of illness and must submit to a temperature reading to gain entrance. All facilities will be required to keep a log of all who are admitted access,” according to the governor’s office.

The order on nursing homes/assisted living facilities will be updated soon by the Ohio Department of Health, however.

“At the urging of the nursing home industry, the Ohio Department of Health will soon update its current order limiting visitors to nursing and assisted living homes to reflect that no visitors will be admitted,” according to the governor’s office.

A fifth case of COVID-19 in Ohio was confirmed on Thursday. The case involves a 55-year-old man from Trumbull County who is currently hospitalized. According to DeWine, the man has no travel history outside of Ohio, and this case represents a case of community spread.

“Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton expect that the number of cases will continue to grow, as medical experts have predicted that the number of cases will continue to double every six days,” DeWine’s office states.

A fourth case of COVID-19 was announced on Wednesday, involving a hospitalized man, age 53, in Stark County. He has had no travel history outside of the United States.

“Because this individual has had no known contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, this is the first instance of ‘community spread’ in Ohio — meaning there is no known source of infection,” according to a statement from the governor’s office on Wednesday.

Three cases of coronavirus in Ohio on Monday prompted a state of emergency to be declared in the state. These three cases are in Cuyahoga County.

As of Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., according to ODH, there were 13 confirmed cases of the virus in Ohio (up from five on Thursday), 159 persons under investigation for the virus in Ohio (up from 52 on Tuesday), and 50 people who have tested negative for the virus in Ohio.

Of the 13 confirmed cases, nine are reportedly males, and four are females. Ages range from 34 to 66 with median age of 48. Illness dates range from Feb. 25 to March 11.

As of March 12, the cumulative number of individuals in Ohio under health supervision was 333 (the cumulative number of travelers referred to the Ohio Department of Health for monitoring; includes travelers who have completed their self-monitoring period. These individuals are not exhibiting symptoms of illness.)

At a press conference on Friday with Acton, DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, and others, it was reasserted that confirmed cases of coronavirus are expected to rise.

Dr. Acton has stated that she estimates that more than 100,000 people in Ohio already have coronavirus.

On Friday, she said that it is known that there is community spread coronavirus in Ohio.

According to DeWine, there is now more testing occurring for the virus.

“We believe that there are many in Ohio today who are carrying the virus, and so, in the days ahead, you’re going to see more and more reports out there, but again, our best judgement, based on our medical experts, is that the coronavirus is already all over the state of Ohio,” DeWine said.

According to NBC4 Columbus, the currently confirmed cases in Ohio are in six counties: two in Belmont, 1 in Butler, 6 in Cuyahoga, two in Stark, one in Summit, and one in Trumbull. More information is supposed to be released on the case in Butler County.

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus. As of Friday afternoon at 12:53 p.m., there were 1,268 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. There were a total of 5,088 deaths from the virus in the world, according to Johns Hopkins. According to NBC News, there have been 41 deaths in the United States from the virus as of Friday, March 13 at 5:41 p.m.

Among other information from Friday’s press conference, DeWine spoke of daycares.

“Governor DeWine signed an executive order easing the teacher/student ratio currently required for day cares and preschools,” a press release from the governor’s office states. “This loosening of regulations will help providers continuously care for students during a time when staffing levels are low due to illness.

“Although daycare centers and preschools are not included in his school closure order, Governor DeWine today (Friday) urged parents to keep their children home from these facilities if economically able to do so. He did, however, encourage parents not to leave their children in the care of an elderly babysitter over the age of 60, as these individuals are the highest risk to become seriously ill from COVID-19.”

Among the steps for staying healthy and/or stopping the spread of COVID-19 are the following Steps to Prevent Illness from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

TAKE STEPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF

- Clean your hands often

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

- Avoid close contact

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick

Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html for more information on people at risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

TAKE STEPS TO PROTECT OTHERS

- Stay home if you’re sick

• Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Learn about what to do if you are sick at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html

- Cover coughs and sneezes

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.

• Throw used tissues in the trash.

Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

- Wear a facemask if you are sick

• If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn about what to do if you are sick at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html

• If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

- Clean and disinfect

• Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces (go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/cleaning-disinfection.html for more information on environmental cleaning and disinfection recommendations) daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

• If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

To disinfect:

Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work, according to CDC. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.

Options include:

• Diluting your household bleach.

To make a bleach solution, mix:

5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water

OR

4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.

• Alcohol solutions.

Ensure solution has at least 70% alcohol.

• Other common EPA-registered household disinfectants.

Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens (list available at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/sars-cov-2-list_03-03-2020.pdf) claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).

Go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/cleaning-disinfection.html for more complete disinfection guidance from CDC.

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

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

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