Ohio Department of Health

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine did not mince words on Thursday when asked by a reporter how close Ohio is to a shelter in place order.

"Well, first of all, we've already asked people to shelter in place if they can," DeWine said. "That's a term; other people use other terms. Just to put it very bluntly, stay home. We ask people to stay home. Please stay home if you can."

This came during the March 19 press conference on the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency with DeWine, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Amy Acton, M.D., MPH, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, and other cabinet directors.

DeWine said that many Ohioans are already staying home but that we need "more and more Ohioans to do that."

"Some of this is just terminology. If you get a shelter in place order, you're going to still need police. You're still going to need fire. You're still going to need emergency. You're still going to need to eat," he said. "I mean we're going to need a lot of different things that are going to continue on and on in this state of 11.7 million people, so some of this is more terminology than anything else.

"We want people to shelter in place. We want them to stay home, so again, I will renew that plea. If there's no reason for you to be out — I mean a real good reason — please stay home."

"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."

Dr. Acton, during the Thursday press conference also stated that people should stay home if they can. She indicated that the numbers of confirmed cases are definitely on the upslope now.

She indicated that it is urgent for people to talk to each other about heeding the call to stay home and take the guidance given by state and national officials seriously.

"It is time to heed this call. You need to stay home, if you can at all stay home, with your family. You need to follow the guidance that we have provided and take it seriously so that we can protect our essential workers.

"Every day matters, and as news will be breaking over the next 24 hours, I think that will become increasingly clear.

"We've heard in the media about a child care center. We've heard now about a nursing home. You're seeing what is that community spread on the upward sweep, so every day and every one of us matters ... I'm asking folks to really heed the message now because time is of the essence."

Dr. Acton said that young people are also being affected by the disease and hospitalized in large amounts.

"In the United States, over 38 percent of hospitalizations are now under the age of 55," she said.

Our average age of onset (in Ohio) is 49 years of age, she said, and young people are getting ill.

DeWine also mentioned that he read an article on Thursday that looked at the number of young people who are in intensive care units (ICU), including people in their 20s and 30s.

DeWine said that when people say COVID-19 is more deadly the older you get, "that does not mean that somebody who gets this at a younger age is going to have an easy time at all."

"This spares no one," he said.

Also at Thursday's press conference, DeWine assured the public that the grocery supply chain is doing well and people do not need to worry that food in the grocery store is going to run out.

He also said that illegal internet cafes are closed.

"And even if you think your internet cafe is legal, it's closed as well," he said. "We've received complaints from local officials that we have people gathering there, so I just want to make that very, very clear, and we are issuing an order to that effect.

"In all seriousness, the concern is always the same, and it's number of people coming together," he said.

Ohio government has seen internet cafes as places where illegal gambling may occur.

He also said that PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio) has issued a moratorium on electric and gas disconnects for the time being.

DeWine also urged those who come back from spring break or trips to Florida or other places to stay in their homes and make sure they are not in contact with people who do not live in their home.

"We had an example yesterday of someone who very innocently came back from spring break ... in Florida, and that did not end the way we wanted it to end," DeWine said.

And for anyone thinking about traveling, DeWine asked that they please reconsider it.

"It (traveling) is a high-risk proposition, and we would hope that you would not do that," he said.

He also addressed the issue he brought up on Wednesday when he told businesses that they should be taking all employees' temperatures everyday before they come to work. He acknowledged that thermometers are in short supply.

"But let me try to put that in context," he said. "Really, what I was trying to say very inartfully, was that employers who continue to work, and we have essential industries that absolutely must continue, we would ask them to be extremely careful with their employees to the benefit of the employees (and) the benefit of everyone — doing the extra sanitation, doing all the things that you need to do."

DeWine indicated that if employers cannot take all employees' temperatures, then employers should ask all their employees to take their own temperatures prior to arriving at work. He also said the employer should ask all employees how well they are feeling.

Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher should self-quarantine with members of their household, according to the governor's office.

DeWine asked that employers make sure they are cleaning and disinfecting and observing the same separation between people in the workplace as people are supposed to be observing everywhere else.

"Small decisions that each one of us make every single day are going to determine how well we do and whether our healthcare system actually can hold up under what is coming ahead," he said.

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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