Ohio Department of Health

Ohio has seen its first death due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), it was reported by the Ohio Department of Health on Friday.

According to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the man who passed away, Mark Wagoner, Sr., age 76, a Lucas County resident, was someone that he and Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted both knew.

“We have now entered a new phase in our battle against the coronavirus,” DeWine said as he announced the death at Friday’s press conference on COVID-19 with Husted and Ohio Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton, M.D., MPH. “This phase is not unexpected but it is tragic nonetheless.”

According to DeWine, Wagoner was a prominent attorney in Toledo and was someone who had been on the Board of Elections and who had been prominent in the Republican Party.

“When we here about these deaths in other states, as we hear about them in Ohio ... Most of the times we will not know that individual. It will be another number, but I think it’s important for us to remember that each time we hear about a new death, that is someone who is loved, someone who has lived their life, someone who wanted to live longer, someone who was cherished by the people in their family and in their community,” DeWine said.

DeWine mentioned Psalm 23 from the Bible that says in-part “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.”

He said that for Ohioans “it may seem for awhile that we are, in fact, living in a valley of death.”

“It will seem like we are living in the valley of that shadow, but we will get through this. We will get through this. The sun will shine again. It will be spring again in this wonderful, beautiful State of Ohio.”

DeWine, Acton, and Husted all expressed their sympathy to Wagoner’s loved ones.

Dr. Acton said that the media may be hearing stories of more potential COVID-19 deaths in Ohio, and she said that those investigations are still ongoing.

DeWine expressed his appreciation to first responders as well as everyone in the medical community working to keep people alive and “preparing for what will be coming in the days and weeks ahead.”

“We’re grateful for everyone who is working so very hard as we go through these difficult times to keep Ohio moving — whether it’s feeding us, clothing us, making sure that we have the medical care that we need, thank you,” he added. “I’m proud of each and every one of you. I’m grateful for what you do.”

As of Thursday, March 19, at 2 p.m., there were 169 confirmed cases of the disease in Ohio in 28 Ohio counties, with 39 people hospitalized, but Acton has indicated that numbers are coming in very quickly and are changing rapidly.

Acton has also indicated that the virus is most likely all over the state, and the actual numbers of people who have the virus are unknown as many people have not yet been tested. Last week, she estimated that at that time there may already have been more than 100,000 cases of people carrying COVID-19 in Ohio.

Ages of currently-confirmed cases are from 1 year old to 91 years old, with 100 males and 69 females.

Illness dates of currently-confirmed cases range from Feb. 7 to March 18.

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

“This virus is, as we have said, we believe is twice as contagious as the flu and is 20 times as deadly,” DeWine 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.”

Also on Friday, DeWine thanked the businesses in Ohio that have done everything they could to comply with “the best safety precautions — separating people, making sure there is sanitizer everywhere, making sure when that employee comes in there’s a discussion with that employee: ‘How are you feeling? Are you OK?’, businesses that have asked their employees to take their own temperatures at home, businesses that have had the thermometers that can take the temperatures as they come in.”

“We have some real heroes out there in the business community, who are really, really focusing on that, so I thank you,” he said. “What you’re doing every day is saving lives. There’s absolutely no doubt about that.

“Sadly, I also, though, continue to receive — and continued to receive more this morning — emails, texts from employees, from people who have observed what’s going on in other businesses, about businesses that are not complying, businesses that are recklessly risking the lives of their employees, their employees’ families, and everyone who those employees and their families come in contact with.

“This simply must stop. I implore you, please do what is right.”

DeWine said that he took an oath of office to do the essential thing that government does, protect the people. He said that as he balances that with an attempt to keep the economy moving, he will err on the side of protecting people.

“The bad behavior, the reckless behavior must stop.”

DeWine indicated that evidence shows that when businesses are “very, very aggressive” in complying with the public safety measures they can protect their employees.

On Wednesday, DeWine indicated that some Ohioans still “do not really understand it” when it comes to where the state is with the virus and what they have to do to keep each other safe.

DeWine said that even if you are doing volunteer work, “even if you are doing the Lord’s work, you are doing important things,” please observe the no congregating rule.

He said that he and Husted were both sent a texted photo from somewhere in Ohio that showed people in a room volunteering to do great work, “but they were together, and it was a bunch of people in a room.” He indicated that they still should have been observing distance between people and not crowding into a room.

“So even if you’re doing important work, still observe that distance. That is very very important,” he said.

“This is a crisis that you’ve never seen in your life and that I hope you will never see again in your life,” he said. “But we have to get through this.”

Also on Friday, Dr. Acton said that she does not want people to take mild to moderate cases of the virus lightly.

“When you get this (virus), a lot of people from what I’m hearing now, and we hear more stories every day, feel pretty awful. It might be up to two weeks of feeling awful,” she said.

Acton also said that, unfortunately, the death toll is expected to rise in Ohio.

“We knew we would see these deaths. We’ve known this will happen, but it’s still very hard to take when it happens, and I think we will see more (deaths),” she said.

“I just want to again share my condolences to the family (of Mark Wagoner), that we’re all going through this together. Every single life matters, and we’ll be with you through this every step of the way.”

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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