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Coronavirus In Ohio: March 24-April 10

A dog statue in downtown Columubs has been equipped with a face mask.
David Holm
A dog statue in downtown Columbus has been equipped with a face mask.

WOSU is providing updates about the coronavirus and COVID-19 in Ohio. Find the most recent news and information below.

Gov. Mike DeWine's daily cororavirus press conference will start just after 2 p.m. Watch below, on WOSU  TV or listen on 89.7 NPR News. Puedes ver la conferencia de prensa del gobernador traducida al Español.

Ohio by the numbers, according to the Ohio Department of Health (based on limited testing ability):

  • 253 COVID-19-related deaths, plus 5 probable deaths
  • 6,604 confirmed cases of COVID-19, plus 86 probable cases
  • 1,948 hospitalizations, 572 in ICU
  • 63,243 total tests administered

All of WOSU’s coverage of the coronavirus outbreak can be found here.

If you think you have coronavirus, or have questions about the disease, Ohio's coronavirus call center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634. More information is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

Has your job been impacted by the coronavirus? You may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Visit unemployment.ohio.gov to learn more and apply.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided a list of answers to frequently asked questions about the coronavirus. Here are thelatest numberson the outbreak in the United States.

Latest Updates

Friday, April 10

4:40 p.m. The state association representing for-profit nursing homes says it’s frustrated more information isn’t being shared about COVID-19, as many local health departments aren't releasing data or revealing which nursing homes had outbreaks.

  • Eleven nursing home residents have died in Miami County near Dayton while another outbreak in neighboring Darke County has killed seven. In the Youngtown area, 12 have died from the virus at long-term care facilities.

4:34 p.m. Columbus-based research institute Battelle received a federal contract to send their personal protection equipment cleaning machine to 60 deployment sites around the country.

  • The system uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide, and is already being used in Central Ohio, New York and Washington State. Additional systems are going to Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago and Washington D.C.
  • The contract with the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover up to $400 million worth of staffing and training system operators who will help process used masks.

2:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus press conference.

  • The state will now report statistics in accordance with updated CDC guidelines. New statistics will include cases of presumed COVID-19 cases and those who test positive for anti-bodies to the virus, in addition to the coronavirus testing numbers previously reported. Deaths will be similarly reported.
  • The Federal Highway Administration has opened the nation’s rest areas to food trucks and ODOT has created a new food truck permit. This is intended to better serve truckers and other essential workers. The permit is free for vendors and is available at transportation.ohio.gov.
  • Medicaid plans have eased some restrictions to increase ease of care and decrease any burden on members. Some of these include: the number of pharmacy refills is relaxed, pharmacy co-pays are waived, and pharmacy benefits will be honored regardless of whether the provider is in-network or out-of-network.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said transit authorities across the state are requesting that that only essential workers use public transit and that all riders wear masks.
  • DeWine said the state will start testing every inmate in prisons that already have cases of COVID-19.

11:22 a.m. Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center has won FDA approval for new coronavirus testing supplies. Scientists developed a 3D-printed swab and a salt-based solution to help preserve samples for testing.

Thursday, April 9  

3:05 p.m. The Ohio High School Athletic Association has announced tentative details for spring sports seasons, if the state’s schools are reopened by May 4 by Gov. Mike DeWine. The OHSAA set dates for a shortened regular season and state tournaments, but spring sports will be canceled if schools remained closed for the remainder of the academic year.

2:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine gives his daily coronavirus press conference

  • A group of protestors outside the Ohio Statehouse could be heard voicing angerwith the state’s closure of non-essential businesses and social distancing orders.
  • DeWine said the protest is not a violation of his mass gatherings ban, and the state would not keep restrictions in place one day longer than they have to.
  • Nineteen manufactures are working with three hospital groups in the state and JobsOhio to create face shields for hospital workers. Between 750,000-1 million face shields will be produced over the next five weeks. The face shields will be able to be sterilized at the hospitals.
  • DeWine said the state is working on a “fairly sophisticated plan” to come back from the stay-at home order and other restrictions that are currently in place. That plan will be shared “in the next week or so."
  • Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton says they’re going to start putting out more trend data on indicators that are being monitoring to figure out when social distancing restrictions can start to be lifted.
  • DeWine said the state is still seeing hospitalizations go up. He added hospitalizations and death tend to lag behind when cases are confirmed
  • A number of Wifi hotspots around the state have been upgraded, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. Even though libraries are closed, Wifi can be accessed in their parking lots. More info can be found on the state's coronvairus website.

9:44 a.m. A suspected shoplifter in Cleveland faces charges of "inducing panic," a fifth-degree felony, after claiming to have the coronavirus.  Cleveland.com reports that after being detained by Walgreen's employees, 36-year-old Johnny Garcia Jr. told police officers he tested positive, causing the pharmacy to shut down early.

9:40 a.m. Health officials are monitoring strong clusters ofCOVID-19 cases that are spread throughout Portage County. The county is one of three areas epidemiologists have identified as high-risk, mainly because of the many nursing homes. As of Wednesday, Portage had 108 positive cases of coronavirus and eight deaths.

9:20 a.m.  The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services reports that 226,007 Ohioans filed for unemployment in the last week. A total of 696,519have filed for jobless benefits in the last three weeks.  

Wednesday, April 8

5:07 p.m. Authorities in the northern Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville have jailed a 28-year-old woman accused of recklessly exposing others to the coronavirus. Stephanie Incarnato of Dayton, Ohio, allegedly shoplifted more than $1,000 worth of grcoeries Tuesday from a Kroger store.

  • Besides felony theft and drug possession, Incarnato is accused of violating Ohio law by failing to take measures to prevent exposing others to a "dangerous, contagious disease," a second-degree misdemeanor.

4:06 p.m. Stonewall Columbus announces that the Pride Parade has been postponed to October 3, 2020. The parade and festival had been scheduled for June 19-20.

2:05 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine gives his daily coronavirus update.

  • Within Ohio's prison system, 48 staff members and 17 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at seven prisons. One officer at the Marion Correctional Institution, John Dawson, has died.
  • DeWine says reports of child abuse are down in Ohio because schools are closed, since teachers are mandatory reporters. Ohio's child abuse call line can be reached here: 855-642-4453.
  • Ohio will receive 100,000 N-95 masks from Apple, after efforts from JobsOhio and the city of Columbus.
  • DeWine is asking the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation to send up to $1.6 billion in dividends to Ohio employers to help ease the impact of the coronavirus. That's almost 100% of the premiums that employers paid in 2019. If approved, checks will start to go out later in April.
  • Ohio's unemployment system has so far paid out more than $124 million to more than 195,000 residents affected by the pandemic.
  • Health Department director Amy Acton says 83 of Ohio's 88 counties have confirmed cases of COVID-19. 
  • The latest model projects a peak of 1,600 cases per day in mid-April. Acton says that's down from a potential of 62,000 per day without social distancing measures.
  • Following federal guidelines, Ohio will begin using a "possible or probable" case label for people who are mildly ill with symptoms, but who wouldn't otherwise qualify for a coronavirus test.

Tuesday, April 7

4:36 p.m. COTA reports a second bus driver has tested positive for COVID-19. Officials said in a statement the driver last drove a transit authority vehicle March 12.

3:14 p.m. Honda has furloughed thousands of workers through at least May 1. The company previously paused production at its North American plants, including five in Ohio, but continued to pay employees during the closures.

2:56 p.m. A Hilliard nursing home, Mill Run Rehab Center and Assisted Living, is now considered a coronavirus hot spotafter eight employees and two residents tested positive for COVID-19.

2:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily press conference.

  • Those enrolled in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will receive additional support. Users who did not receive the maximum month allotment for their household size in March will be issued an additional payment starting this week. All SNAP-eligible households will also be able to get a pre-packaged box of food at their local foodbank.
  • The Ohio Liquor Control Commission passed an emergency rule to allow bars and restaurants with an existing liquor permit to sell alcohol, including high-proof liquor drinks in limited quantity, for delivery or carry-out.
  • To protect state prison staff and inmates, DeWine is recommending the early release of a limited number of inmates under an overcrowding emergency statute. With all violent and sexual offenders eliminated, 141 prisoners who are within 90 days of release are eligible.
  • DeWine is also recommending the release of another group of prisoners who are over 60 years old, have a chronic health condition, and have served at least half of their sentence. With all violent and sexual offenders eliminated, 26 inmates’ cases will be sent to local judges and considered for an expedited parole board hearing.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the creation of the Office of Small Business Relief to identify and coordinate all support available to small businesses. More information is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov/businesshelp.
  • Health Department director Amy Acton said that after a call-out for medical equipment from health facilities outside of the hospital system, the state has found thousands of pieces of equipment it can acquire, including 901 ventilators. 

9:50 a.m. To comply with Ohio's updated essential business order, Kroger and Giant Eagle will limit the number of customers in the store to 50% of the building's capacity.

7:45 a.m. Watershed Distillery in Columbus is temporarily halting sales of its hand sanitizer to the public for the remainder of the week to preserve supplies for frontline workers. 

Monday, April 6

2:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily press conference.

  • The following sites have been selected as places that can be converted to accept a surge in hospital patients: Seagate Convention Center, Lucas County; Case Western University’s Health Education Campus, Cuyahoga County; Dayton Convention Center, Montgomery County; Covelli Convention Center, Mahoning County; Duke Energy Convention Center, Hamilton County; Greater Columbus Convention Ctr, Franklin County.
  • Elkton Federal Correctional Institutionin Columbiana County has 7 inmates who have tested positive COVID-19 and 3 who have died. Although this is a federal prison and not under the jurisdiction of the state, DeWine is sending a medical team from the Ohio National Guard. DeWine has also requested that no new prisoners be brought into the prison.
  • In Ohio’s prisons, five inmates have tested positive in Marion and five inmates have tested positive in Pickaway County. Among staff, 27 are positive at four facilities, but most come from Marion. The governor is continuing to review inmates who could be released early. No inmate charged with a violent or sexually-related crime will be considered.

1:10 p.m. A Sixth Circuit court of appeals' decision will allow some surgical abortions to continue despite the state's order banning elective surgeries.

Sunday, April 5

2:14 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine isn't holding a press conference Sunday. The Ohio Department of Health reports 4,043 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 119 deaths.

  • The state reports 1,104 people have been hospitalized and 346 admitted into the ICU.

Saturday, April 4 

2:00 p.m.Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus press conference.

  • Gov. Mike DeWine says he will start wearing a cloth mask made by his wife, Fran, while in public. He will not require people to wear masks in public. He also encourages employers to allow employees to wear masks if they want to. 
  • Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said wearing masks are another way to flatten the curved, but is not a substitue for the other measures that including staying at home and social distancing. "Remember this mask is not to make you bullet proof, it won't make you bullet proof, a virus can get through any homemade mask."
  • Acton said directions on making masks are available online.
  • Acton said wearing masks will be a culture change, but recent studies have shown wearing them help. Homemade masks are about 80% effective and wearing them help stop spreading coronavirus, because up to 25% of people may have had the virus and didn’t know it.
  • DeWine said that he has spent part of his day working on hospital build out around the state. Three ways they are increasing the number of hospital beds are, cutting down on elective surgeries, physical build out by Ohio National Guard and hospitals are finding ways additional rooms on campus
  • DeWine signed an executive order to expand telehealth in Ohio for counselors, social workers and marriage and family counselors. The order also suspends the requirement for the first meeting to take place in person as well as special training for the counselors.
  • The state is compiling a list of wifi hotspots around the state for students and other people, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. The listing is available at http://coronavirus.ohio.gov/businesshelp.
  • Acton says Google Mobility data shows people are staying home, but are also using parks.
  • Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElroy said the state has received $8.8 million in federal funding for meals for older Ohioans.

Friday, April 3

6:46 p.m. Ohio State announced its spring commencement ceremony will be held virtually on Sunday, May 3 with Apple CEO Tim Cook delivering the commencement address. The ceremony will be lived streamed at noon. The university said additional details would be released in the coming weeks.

4:48 p.m. A federal judge has rejected an attempt to stop Ohio's new primary election, which was extended to April 28 by the Ohio General Assembly.

  • In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson denied a motion from the League of Women Voters that sought to extend voting time, reopen registration, and require the state to send absentee ballots to all eligible voters.
  • "The Constitution does not require the best plan, just a lawful one," Watson wrote. "As is apparent from the briefing in this lawsuit, every group has a different idea of what the best plan would be. But the Court will not declare the Ohio Legislature's unanimous bill to be unconstitutional simply because other options may have been better."

3:09 p.m. COSI has temporarily laid off over 80% of its staff, president Frederic Bertley announces.

2:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus press conference.

  • The Ohio Department of Education has released a guide for educators and parents with resources and best practices for remote learning.
  • The state is sending a letter to judges across the stateadvising them to consider 38 prisoners, all  non-violent offenders, for early release. One group consists of 23 women who are pregnant or recently gave birth. Another group consists of 15 prisoners who are over 60 years old and are within 60 days of release.
  • Small business loans through the federal Payment Protection Program should soon be available through area lenders. In some cases the loans can be forgivable if they go towards costs such as payroll, rent, and utility bills.
  • The state’s new job website, coronavirus.ohio.gov/jobsearch, now has over 21,000 listings for open positions.

1:40 p.m. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced it will close Hocking Hills State Park and all of the park's trails starting at sunset today, April 3.

12:21 p.m. ComFest will not hold its festival as scheduled on June 26-28, 2020.

9:00 a.m. U.S. Judge Michael Barrett yesterday denied a request by the Ohio Attorney General to stay a temporary restraining order, which blocks the state from banning surgical abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The judge clarified that abortion providers are permitted to provide surgical abortions on a case-by-case basis to protect the health of the mother, or to "preserve the mother's exercise of her Fourteenth Amendment right to a pre-viability abortion."  

Thursday, April 2

3:30 p.m. The Catholic Bishops of Ohio are extending the suspension of public masses through May 3 to comply the Gov. DeWine's most recent order.

2:00 p.m.  Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus press conference.

  • DeWine announced the state is extending the stay-at-home orderand closure of non-essential businesses to May 1.
  • The new order creates a dispute resolution panel to handle cases where similar businesses are being treated differently by different counties. It also calls for retailers to establish a customer limit on how many can be in a store at one time.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the ODJFS has hired an additional 300 employees as of today to help with influx of unemployment benefit claims.
  • Many businesses are hiring and a new website will help direct job seekers to those open positions. The site is coronavirus.ohio.gov/jobsearch and it currently has 11,903 jobs listed.
  • Ohio Health Department Director Amy Acton announced that Ohio’s licensing boards are sending a survey to members to identify additional personnel with healthcare skills who can help respond to the potential hospital surge.

10:34 a.m. The 2020 Columbus Arts Festival has been canceled. The festival was scheduled for June 12-14.

  • "We could not in good conscience hold a festival that would bring artists and visitors from 38 states and four countries, and more than 500,000 people within close proximity to each other on the downtown riverfront," president Tom Katzenmeyer said in a statement.
  • Artists who were chosen by jury for the 2020 festival will keep their spots for next year’s event, which is set for June 11-13, 2021.

8:40 a.m. Ohio has received 468,414 jobless claims over the past two weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. That's more claims than for the whole year in 2019, when 364,603 were filed.

  • During the week ending March 28, Ohioans filed 272,129 unemployment claims. The state also revised the previous week's numbers up to 196,309.
  • Nationwide, over 6.6 million Americansfiled for unemployment, doubling the record set a week earlier.

6:35 a.m. Craft retailer Hobby Lobby is once again closing its Ohio stores, after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Wednesday, April 1

4:30 p.m. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hobby Lobby after it reopened over a dozen stores in Ohio, despite the state’s ban of non-essential businesses.

3:30 p.m. The Greater Columbus Arts Council has paused its emergency coronavirus relief program for local artists after distributing all funds. The organization is currently fundraising money in hopes of continuing to provide grants.

2:00 p.m. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus press conference.

  • DeWine said that the state is split into three healthcare zones with hubs in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. These zones will be used to manage hospital capacity and dictate where patients go if they need to be moved for a higher level of care.
  • The state has launched the Ohio Manufacturers Alliance to Fight COVID-19, which will facilitate cooperation between manufacturing and healthcare organizations to begin producing personal protective equipment (PPE) as soon as possible. Manufacturers are encouraged to visit RepurposingProject.com for information on what is needed and how they can help.
  • Health Department Director Amy Acton signed an order compelling all hospitalsto send their testing to either other hospital labs or the DOH labs instead of private labs.
  • SNAP food assistance recipients can now shop for food online and be eligible for curbside pickup at grocery stores.
  • DeWine said the FEMA disaster declaration for Ohio will provide grants for the state and local governments. It means that 75% of certain costs, such as emergency operation centers, disinfection supplies and PPE, can be shifted to the federal government. It also provides access to additional support from the National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • DeWine signed an order with a plea to lenders and landlords to pause payments for 90 days on properties to assist small businesses and tenants who may not be able to pay. This means there would be no foreclosures for this period of time.

1:17 p.m. Ohio State University announces that all courses during its summer term will be held online. The term will be held from May 13-July 31, with finals the week of August 3-5 and commencement on August 9.

6:26 a.m. The entire inmate population at the Marion Correctional Institution is on quarantine after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

  • A release from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections says inmates remain separated by unit and they're all having their temperature taken daily. So far no inmates have tested positive for coronavirus.

6:20 a.m. Late Tuesday, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said a shipment of personal protective equipment from the national strategic stockpile combined with the state's reserves will not be enough to meet immediate or future needs of treating patients suffering from COVID-19.

Tuesday, March 31

7:30 p.m. President Donald Trump officially declared Ohio a major disaster area, in accordance with Gov. DeWine's request. This will allow for additional federal assistance to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.  

4:00 p.m. The Ohio Supreme Court announced it will hold April 7 and 8 oral arguments using videoconferencing because of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

2:00 p.m. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus update and press conference.

  • DeWine said JobsOhio, the state’s private nonprofit economic development agency, is announcing a $2 million fund to provide small business loans in Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties.
  • The Ohio Department of Health is issuing an order to track the statewide inventory of ventilators so they can be redistributed to the areas most in need. Reporting from manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, physicians, and medical facilities will be required everyweek by Wednesday at 5 p.m. at coronavirus.ohio.gov/ventinventory.
  • The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is issuing an order to maintain public water service during the coronavirus pandemic. Among other guidelines, this means water service cannot be disconnected and service that was shutoff after January 1, 2020 will be reconnected.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the state is still working to better deal with the huge increase in unemployment claims. He said the demand has increased twenty-fold and the state is currently training 100 new call center workers.

11:30 a.m. The Columbus Metropolitan Library announces that all library locations will remain closed until at least May 2.

7:07 a.m. Kroger officials report a second worker at a Central Ohio store has tested positive for coronavirus. The employee works at the Gahanna store on South Hamilton Road. Last week, Kroger officials reported a worker at a store on Morse Road tested positive for the virus. 

6:51 a.m. Administrators at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center say the hospital's director of radiology has died from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. A hospital statement says Jeannie Danker died Sunday. She worked at the hospital for more than 30 years.

  • On Monday, Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton mentioned two other deaths of people working in the medical field.

6:19 a.m. A federal judge ruled late Monday that it is likely unconstitutional for the state of Ohio to ban surgical abortions because of concerns about preserving medical supplies.

  • The ruling instructed clinics to determine on a case-by-case basis if an abortion can be delayed to maximize resources. If the abortion is deemed necessary and cannot be delayed, it is therefore declared legally essential. The judge’s order remains in effect for 14 days.

Monday, March 30  

8:10 p.m. ACLU of Ohio, the League of Women Voters and other voting rights groups sue Secretary of State LaRose over the state's new April 28 election date. Their complaint alleges Ohio violated federal law by not extending voter registration, and that the absentee voting deadline is too short and will disenfranchise voters.

5:00 p.m. The Franklin County Sherrif and the Columbus Divisions of Fire and Police will no longer report positive coronavirus test results of its staff, according to reporting from the Columbus Disptach

4:43 p.m. Cincinnati mayor John Cranley announced that a "staggering amount" of city employees have been furloughed due to a sharp decline in revenue. All employees will retain their health benefits. 

4:12 p.m. Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder has extended the work-from-home order for House employees until Monday, May 4.

2:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus update press conference.

  • DeWine announced a new public health orderto close K-12 schools through May 1.
  • Hospitals are asked to send their coronavirus tests to neighboring hospitals or to the Ohio Department of Health lab, rather than private labs. Private labs are experiencing delays that state labs are not.
  • Ohio prisoners are are working on making additional personal protective equipment, or PPE. They have made 500 hospital gowns so far, and will be able to make about 44,000 gowns when they get additional material. In the future, prisoners will be able to make masks, hand sanitizer, and face shields.
  • Ohio has created a team to work with homeless services and enact coronavirus safety guidelines for homeless shelters. They are working to reduce the number of people in shelters.
  • Ohio’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has created email for people with concerns about housing or drug recovery resources: covid19housing@ohio.mha.gov
  • Major Gen. John Harris of the Ohio National Guard says uniformed guards will be in communities working with regional leaders to enact their plans to fight coronavirus and build hospital capacity.
  • Health Department Director Amy Acton said that 70 out of Ohio’s 88 counties now have a case of COVID-19. The latest modeling shows a peak in new cases around mid-to-late April.

1:08 p.m. Planned Parenthood and other Ohio abortion providers file lawsuit to define abortions as "essential" procedures under Health Department guidelines.

  • The complaint, filed March 30 against Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, argues that the window of time patients can obtain an abortion is limited due to Ohio's restrictions. It also argues that pregnant women are higher-risk for contracting COVID-19, and that abortions are not “a procedure that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”

12:50 p.m. Gannett Co. announces company-wide furloughs of newsroom employees earning more than $38,000. Employees across the country will be furloughed one week per month in April, May and June "to address the financial impact of this pandemic."

  • Gannett's CEO announces he will not take a salary, and other Gannett executives will take a pay cut of 25%.
  • Gannett owns USA Today and most newspapers in Ohio, including the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer and Dayton Daily News.

11:13 a.m. Grocery store chain Giant Eagle has set up a websitetracking COVID-19 cases internally, after several store employees tested positive. Out of the six confirmed cases, one employee works at a GetGo in Brunswick, Ohio, and last worked Thursday. The rest are in Pennsylvania.

10:17 a.m. The Attorney General's Office has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit from a Belmont Correctional inmate seeking to be released over fear of contracting COVID-19.

  • In a complaint filed March 19, Derek Lichtenwalter says he has HIV and other chronic health problems, and that overcrowding and poor conditions in the prison puts him at more risk of disease.

6:19 a.m. WOSU TV and PBS stations around Ohio are moving to education-based programing to help students and teachers struggling with distance learning starting today. A full program schedule can be seen on WOSU Classroom’s website.

6:12 a.m. State prison officials say a staff member at the Marion Correctional Institute has tested for coronavirus. A press release says the employee last worked March 24 and reported feeling symptomatic the next day. Twenty inmates have been tested for COVID-19, 18 have come back negative and two tests are pending.

Sunday, March 29

10:00 p.m. Battelle announces it won full FDA approval for its Critical Care Decontamination System, allowing it to sterilize up to 80,000 respirator masks per system per day.

  • "This is an example of everyone working quickly to help find a solution," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn says in a statement. "FDA staff have been working around the clock to help mitigate this pandemic as swiftly as possible. After receiving Battelle's request today, we turned it around in a matter of hours and issued a new authorization allowing them to ramp up their capability to decontaminate more respirators."

2:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine plans to give a press conference. Previously, the governor said no update would be held on Sunday unless he had news to announce. 

  • DeWine talks about "urgency" of holding press conference Sunday because the Battelle decontamination systemneeded to be fully approved by the FDA for usage. 
  • DeWine says he got news around 1 a.m. Sunday that Battelle's system had been approved. But around 8 a.m., he was told it wasn't clear that Battelle could sterilize up to 80,000 items per day.
  • Lt. Gov Jon Husted said Ohio has been working on this Battelle sterilization technology with the FDA for over a week. DeWine said he has tired of waiting for the FDA's approval.
  • Minutes before the press conference, DeWine said he talked with FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who said the system would be approved on Sunday. "This isn't going to stop the surge, but it is going to help, not only in Ohio, but across the country," DeWine said.
  • Battelle CEO Lewis Von Thaer said they have a decontamination system already in place at its facility near West Jefferson, and will start cleaning PPE masks on Monday. Another system is being assembled in New York City, and Battelle is also sending the systems to Seattle, Washington DC.

11:30 a.m. Gov. Mike DeWine announces on Twitter that he talked with President Trump about the Battelle technology on Sunday morning, and that Trump "understands the problem and says he will do everything he can to get this approved today." President Trump tweets, "FDA must move quickly!"

9:59 a.m. The FDA has approved Battelle's new Critical Care Decontamination System, but has limted it to sterilize only 10,000 surgucal masks in Ohio according to a statement from Gov. Mike DeWine. The sterilization can only occur in Battelle's Columbus headquarters instead of in converted shipping containers that were going to be sent other states. 

Saturday, March 28

3:35 p.m. Columbus Police announce one officer has tested positive for COVID-19. That officer self-quarantined after suspecting possible exposure.

  • Police Chief Tom Quinlan says the department is implementing its exposure mitigation plan, allowing officers to work four days at the workplace and one day at home.

3:00 p.m. Inside Battelle's new Critical Care Decontamination System, which is waiting for FDA approval.

2:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus press conference.

  • Appearing by phone, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) says that President Trump's order that General Motors must start manufacturing ventilators doesn't go far enough.
  • DeWine says someone who works with Capitol Square Review at Ohio Statehouse was hospitalized with pneumonia, requiring "skeleton staff" on Saturday's press conference. That person has since tested negative for coronavirus.
  • Columbus-based Battelle has developed machines that can sterilize 80,000 ventilator masks and other PPE per day per machine, allowing them to be reused. DeWine urges the Food and Drug Administration to approve the systems for use around the country.
  • DeWine orders that state contractors considered essential must be inspected to make sure they're following best health practices.
  • DeWine asks if manufacturers can help supply some personal protective equipment that state needs most. That list includes: surgical gowns, face/surgical masks, gloves, N-95 respirators, isolation gowns, face shields, coveralls, thermometers, foot coverings and ventilator tubings. Manufacturers who can help should email together@governor.ohio.gov.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says that on Monday, Ohio's public television stations are coordinating to offer K-12 educational programming to help with home learning. 

1:46 pm. Central Ohio hospitals have designated the Greater Columbus Convention Center as the surge site for coronavirus response in the event local hospital exceed capacity, according to the Central Ohio Hospital Council. 

  • Mount Carmel, OhioHealth and Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center will continue to maximize its existing capacities prior to implementing the community surge site.
  • Current pandemic planning shows that Nationwide Children’s Hospital may not need an external surge site, but there is ample space to accommodate children’s patients at the Convention Center if that were necessary, the council said in a statement.

Friday, March 27

5:39 p.m. President Trump ordered General Motors and health care vendor Ventec to begin producing ventilators, invoking the Cold War-era Defense Production Act. The order came hours after Trump tweeted that "General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio."

5:05 p.m. Ohio has extended benefits for SNAP recipients for six months, and Medicaid recipients for 180 days.

4:08 p.m. L Brands is furloughing all store associates effective April 5, as all Bath & Body Works, Victoria's Secret and PINK stores in the U.S. and Canada remain closed indefinitely.

  • Workers will receive pay only through April 4, but will continue to receive health care benefits. Those furuloughed workers can apply for unemployment benefits.
  • L Brands also announces senior vice presidents and above will have their base compensation cut by 20%, while CEO Les Wexner and the Board of Directors will have their cash compensation suspended.

2:30 p.m. A Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy, who worked at the Jackson Pike jail, has tested positive for COVID-19. Authorities are currently investigating.

2:15 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus update press conference.

  • DeWine signed the coronavirus relief bill, which among other things, waives this year’s state testing requirements for K-12 students, extends professional licenses for nurses, allows local governments to hold virtual meetings, and extends the income tax deadline to July 15.
  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) joined the press conference to highlight the ways that the $2 trillion bill passed by Congress will offer relief, including expanded access to unemployment, loans and grants to small businesses, and sending checks directly to taxpayers who make less than $99,000.
  • DeWine encouraged Ohioans to continue to support small businesses online. For more information go to: ohio.org/supportlocalohio.
  • New modeling from the Cleveland Clinic suggests that hospital admissions will increase drastically in the next two weeks, potentially peaking in mid-May. Hospital capacity will need to increase by two or three times to meet the need.
  • The state has been divided into eight regions that are responsible for creating plans to increase the number of hospital and ICU beds.
  • The Ohio National Guard, under the command of Adjutant General John Harris, will assist with the buildup of hospital facilities.
  • Ohio Health Department director Amy Acton said that 20,149 test results have come in so far. She said that when the pandemic peaks, Ohio could see as many as 10,000 new cases per day.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said that although details about federal assistance for independent contractors and 1099 workers are not yet available, the state is currently buildng its system to accept applications for those unemployment benefits.

11:30 a.m. Columbus Public Health officials say they’re stepping up inspections of businesses to make sure they’re complying with a state order on social distancing and basic hygiene. Mayor Andrew Ginther says the city has received hundreds of complaints about possible violations.

7:00 a.m. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections will now provide a daily update on testing in prisons and youth facilities.

Thursday, March 26

8:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine and legislative leaders announce postponement of the governor's State of the State address, which was scheduled for March 31. A new date will be determined after the state of emergency is lifted.

5:57 p.m. Ohio Stateand other colleges will allow most students to take a pass/no pass grade, rather than a traditional letter grade, for this semester's courses.

3:30 p.m. The Ohio Democratic Party has withdrawn its lawsuit against the state over the election day postponement. Chair David Pepper says the legislature passed a plan that accomplishes most of what the party wanted.

2:00 p.m. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine holds is daily coronavirus update.

  • DeWine said he will sign the relief bill passed by the Ohio General Assembly tomorrow.
  • One section of the bill deals with evictions and gives courts more time to handle cases and the discretion to stay eviction actions if they see fit.
  • Weddings and funerals are allowed to take place but large gatherings are still prohibited.
  • Those who have gloves, masks or other PPE (personal protective equipment) to donate can email together@governor.ohio.gov.
  • Ohio Health Department Director Amy Acton unveiled a new website with coronavirus data.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Ohio had over 187,000 unemployment claims last week. Technical issues continue because of increased demand, but work is being done to increase capacity. If a claim is delayed, benefits will be retroactive to match the date of qualification.
  • When the governor signs the relief bill, the new absentee ballot deadline for the Ohio primary election will be April 28. Voters can start that process and request a ballot at voteohio.gov.

12:55 p.m. The Ohio High School Athletic Association has canceled its winter sports tournaments.

9:08 a.m. The Labor Department reported Thursday morning that 187,784 Ohioans filed for unemployment benefits last week. Across the country, a record-breaking 3.28 million Americans filed claims after being forced out of work amid the growing pandemic.

6:37 a.m. A nurse at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. A statement from the hospital’s nurses association says the nurse was not symptomatic, but opted to be tested after feeling “off.” The statement says the nurse is doing well and remains in good spirits.

Wednesday, March 25

3:45 p.m. The Ohio House unanimously passes the Senate coronavirus response bill, sending it to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature.

2:10 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus update and press conference.

  • DeWine praised Cincinnati-based company Procter & Gamble for their effort in spreading the “stay at home” message to young people with social media influencers and the TikTok dance trend #DistanceDance.
  • Health Department director Amy Acton announced that there are 704 confirmed cases, which breaks down to 333 females and 371 males. Of those, 116 are health care workers. The data so far shows a 26% hospitalization rate for those who are infected. Acton said Ohio will need to double its ICU capacity.
  • Ohio has completed 14,764 coronavirus tests so far.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said that food and health care supply chain businesses need more drivers. The Ohio Department of Transportation is cutting some red tape for commercial driver’s licenses to help fill the need.
  • Husted said that the unemployment benefit claims website is back up after experiencing technical issues. Ohio received over 400,000 contacts through unemployment website just yesterday.
  • Ohio is acting to shut down an unnamed business that didn't qualify as "essential" but continued operations after the stay-at-home order.

10:57 a.m. Ohio Senate unanimously passes a coronavirus omnibus bill. Among many other changes, the bill extends absentee voting for the primary election until April 28, moves the state tax deadline to July 15 to align with the new federal date, waives school testing requirements, and freezes EdChoice private school vouchers.

10:50 a.m. About 2,000 child care centers in Ohio have been approved so far under a temporary "pandemic” license. The centers will care for the children of first responders, health care workers, children service workers, and other workers deemed essential, but with a limit of six kids per room.

9:00 a.m. Lawmakers return to the Statehouse today with a busy agenda. Members of the General Assembly need to pick a new date for the delayed Ohio primary, set a later state tax filing day and scrap mandatory school testing for this academic year.

8:30 a.m. More than 50 Ohio health centers were awarded $3.2 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which will be used to get more coronavirus tests, medical supplies and add telehealth services.

Tuesday, March 24

2:00 p.m. Gov. Mike DeWine holds his daily coronavirus update press conference.

  • DeWine stressed that outdoor activities such as visiting cemeteries are allowed under the new "stay at home" order.
  • The state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is coordinating with the Department of Health, and state and private entities, to increase capacity for hospital beds and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks.
  • DeWine said that in a 24-hour period, care for a COVID-19 patient would require 36 pairs of gloves.
  • Health Department director Amy Acton said that 145 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 62 in the ICU, and 25 from long-term care facilities.
  • Ohio currently is at 60% capacity in hospitals after stopping elective surgeries. Total number of ICU beds in the state is 3,600. Acton said that hospitals need to increase ICU capacity by 50%, and suggested dorm rooms and hotels could be turned into hospital units.
  • The Ohio Department of Health has distributed its limited supply of PPEs based on need. Most were given out in Northeast and Central Ohio, where coronavirus cases have been concentrated.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted emphasized that banks and credit unions are open and ready to help families and businesses.
  • In contrast with President Trump's recent comments about reopening the U.S. economy, DeWine said the peak of infections in Ohio likely won't come until at least May 1.

9:00 a.m. After a request from the U.S. Labor Department, Ohio will no longer release daily unemployment statisticsduring the pandemic. Instead, Ohio will put out numbers every Thursday, when national numbers are released.

8:30 a.m. Kent State University has cancelled all May 4 commemoration events for the 50th anniversary of the campus shooting. The school estimated around 15,000 people would be in Kent the weekend of May 1-4, with events including a speech by activist Jane Fonda and a benefit concert featuring Joe Walsh and David Crosby. The school said it’s working on a virtual commemoration program. 

7:11 a.m. The Ohio State University child care center is closed after a staff member tested positive for coronavirus. The employee last worked on March 17 and has been in isolation since then. Ohio State says the center will be closed for a deep cleaning, and is scheduled to reopen on March 30.

6:59 a.m. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is closing campgrounds, cabins, golf courses, restrooms, shower houses, playgrounds and state park marinas at all its properties effective today.

  • Public outdoor spaces at Ohio state parks, wildlife areas, forests and nature preserves remain open, including trails, dog parks and non-marina docks remain open, but ODNR asks people to practice social distancing.

6:00 a.m. Cleveland City Council approved legislation to provide relief for tenants and small businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation suspends for 60 days evictions directly caused by a loss of income during the outbreak.

12:00 a.m. Ohio's stay-at-home orderis now in effect. 

  • Ohio residents can leave their homes to conduct essential activities for health and safety reasons, take care of family members and neighbors, and go outside for exercise.
  • Among others, these businesses are considered essential and may remain open: grocery stores, pharmacies, carry-out and delivery restaurants, hardware stores, food and beverage producers, marijuana dispensaries and producers, food banks and social services, financial and insurance institutions, transportation services, media organizations, laundry services, religious institutions, hotels and motels, and funeral homes.

Read Previous Updates From March 3-23

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.
Nick Houser leads the digital media team and oversees all things digital, including wosu.org, digital content, the WOSU Public Media Mobile App, social media, enewsletters, podcasts and on-demand video.
Michael De Bonis develops and produces digital content including podcasts, videos, and news stories. He is also the editor of WOSU's award-winning Curious Cbus project. He moved to Columbus in 2012 to work as the producer of All Sides with Ann Fisher, the live news talk show on 89.7 NPR News.