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DeWine Extends Closure of K-12 Schools, Ohio COVID-19 Cases Approach 2,000

Current status of hospital resources.
Current status of hospital resources.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will sign an order Monday suspending in-person classes for K-12 schools until May 1. 

A few weeks ago, DeWine suspended those classes for three weeks, but because of the surge of COVID-19 cases, they decided to extend the order.

There are now 1,933 cases in Ohio and 39 deaths have been confirmed across 19 counties. "We still see that our peak is going to be, we're thinking, in a couple of weeks," Acton said. 

She said the surge in cases is expected to happen anywhere between mid-April to mid-May, and the state could see up to 10,000 cases a day. 

Acton encouraged people to keep quarantining and practice social distancing because testing is scarce. She said everyone should assume they have it because at this point, COVID-19 is everywhere. 

DeWine and Acton are also asking hospitals to send samples from patients to places that can test them as soon as possible to prevent a lag in cases from private labs. They can be sent to ODH for free. The Health Department can now get results in as little as eight hours and Acton says that is getting shorter all the time. 

As Ohio prepares for the surge, many people are chipping in to help wherever they can. 

State prisons are awaiting materials that would allow them to make 5,000 or more masks a day and 1,400 gallons of hand santizer. They've already made 500 hospital gowns. 

The state has also created a team dedicated to protect susceptible populations from COVID-19. The team will be enforcing new Centers for Disease Control and Preventionguidelines in homeless and domestic violence shelters. 

DeWine is working with mayors to get information about the coronavirus to communities who may not speak English. 

"It's important that every Ohioan gets all the information that we have in regard to the coronavirus," DeWine said. 

The ODH website is now available in different languages. 

Major General John Harris, Jr., adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard has been working with Acton to find creative ways to increase hospital capacity.

"No hospital system in this world has ever faced what we're facing with the coronavirus," Acton said. 

Harris and Acton are looking at acquiring unused state facilities to create makeshift hospitals, finding creative ways to increase staffing — like allowing final-year medical students to work — and are continuing the search for protective equipment. 

Sunday night, the FDA revised a rule that allowed Columbus-based Battelle Labs to clean only 10,000 N95 masks a day, which are in short supply nationwide. Federal regulators said Battelle can now sterilize 80,000 masks per machine each day, meaning up to 160,000 masks can be reused each day to help ease the shortage. 

Harris warned Ohioans that they're going to see a lot more people in uniform, but they'll be helping communities with whatever they need. 

But most importantly, he said everyone needs to be working together to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

"Every person is a participant in this," Harris said. "We'll all be better for it when we come out at the other end."

DeWine said in the next few days, it's possible he will sign an order addressing groups congregating in parks. He didn't give many details, but said cities in other states have gone as far as removing basketball hoops from local parks to prevent people getting together. 

Many things have occurred in the state over the last few weeks regarding COVID-19. Among them: 

  • FDA allows Columbus-based Battelle Labs to sanitize up to 80,000 N95 masks per machine a day. 
  • Nearly 188,000 Ohioans have filed for unemployment, according to new numbers released by the state Thursday. 
  • Daycares closed at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday unless they secured a temporary pandemic childcare license from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. A limited number of temporary licenses were awarded and are intended to provide care for healthcare, emergency personnel, and other essential employees. 
  • DeWine has issued an order to freeze state government hiring as well as new contracts to save the state money. 
  • The state issued a stay-at-home order, which took effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 23. This means Ohioans must only leave their homes for essential needs like groceries, medicine or exercise. To view which businesses are open and closed, click here.
  • DeWine ordered centers forpeople with disabilities to close. Alternatives have been offered to those who need them. 
  • Public playgrounds have been ordered to close. 
  • Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor will beinviting local courts to apply for a share of $4 million in grant funding to help them acquire video conferencing technology to reduce the need for in-person trials and transactions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Ohio Medicaid will expandtelehealth services to get in contact with health professionals amid the outbreak. It'll include phone calls, FaceTime and smart phones.
  • Barbershops, hair and nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors were ordered to close at end of business Wednesday, March 18. 
  • More than 180 Bureau of Motor Vehicles locations have also been shut down. Five around the state will remain open to issue commercial driver's licenses. DeWine is asking the Ohio General Assembly to pass legislation that will grant a grace period for people who can’t renew licenses. He's also asking law enforcement, including State Highway Patrol, to not issue tickets for someone who has an expired license.
  • DeWine is asking all businesses, including nonprofits, manufacturers and retailers, to check each employee's temperature before the individual enters the workplace every day. If the person's temperature is elevated, they should be sent home. He's also encouraging employees to check their own temperature every day as a precaution. 
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has encouraged people to apply for unemployment benefits online. Requests have skyrocketed. The state is reducing the wait time to receive benefits to help those left without work suddenly due to coronavirus. Go to unemployment.ohio.gov to apply. He also asked small businesses who need financial relief to go to sba.gov/disaster
  • Hospitals are postponing elective surgeriesuntil further notice. The state issued the order Tuesday to conserve protective equipment for health care workers and keep beds open. Patients will receive a call if their surgery has been canceled. The Ohio Hospital Association also says that hospitals across the state are prepared for a 25% surge in COVID-19 cases if that happens. 
  • Ohio has postponed its primaries. Not even 12 hours before polls were supposed to open, Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health issued a health emergency to shut down polling locations. The new proposed voting date is June 2 but the details still have to be worked out by the courts and/or the state legislature. Absentee ballots would be allowed until then. For more information on what happened, click here.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted gave an update on unemployment requests. 78,000 requests have been filed. It was 6,500 two weeks ago. He also asked small businesses who need financial relief to go to sba.gov/disaster.  absentee ballot, 
  • The state has shut down more facilities, including gyms, fitness centers, recreation facilities, theaters, indoor water parks and indoor trampoline parks. 
  • University of Akron has decided to keep classes online for the rest of the semester. The school has also asked students toleave the residence halls by 11 p.m. Wednesday. 
  • Kent State employeehas tested negative for COVID-19 after coming into contact with a patient who has the disease. Students have been ordered to leave the residence halls by the end of the week and are eligible for a refund. The university has also announced it will start limiting operations at all eight campuses Monday afternoon. 
  • Bars and restaurants closed down Sunday night temporarily to prevent large gatherings. DeWine said he came to the decision after he received multiple complaints about crowds over the weekend. Carry-out and delivery options are still available. 
  • The state is implementing a COVID-19 treatment plan for individuals with an addiction or mental health issues. This includes more telehealth services that will allow patients to video chat with professionals or call a landline. The plan will also implement a service that will allow people to get their medications without having to physically go to a pharmacy. Pharmacies are making sure they have adequate supplies of medications
  • The Cleveland Clinic is officially offering drive-thru coronavirus testingwith a doctor's order. It's in partnership with University Hospitals, which is doing the same. The testing location is in University Circle.
  • Summit Countyconfirmed its first case of COVID-19 Friday. A woman in her 50s is a case of community spread, which means she didn't travel or have direct contact with other COVID-19 patients. The county and the city of Akron have declared public health emergencies. All community centers in Akron closed Monday.  
  • President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. This allows the White House to get direct aid quickly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disasters and health crises. Trump has also been tested for COVID-19 and doesn't have it.  
  • Lawmakers plan to send a letter to Trump with 17 requests for state relief, such as having access to more protective equipment for health care workers. 
  • DeWine issued an order that prohibits visitors in jails. The state also isn't allowing visitors in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and psychiatric facilities. 
  • Ohio K-12 schools shut down Monday afternoon for three weeks. DeWine said he will help schools with whatever they need, but it's up to administrators to figure out how to determine details of educating students while they're at home and when they return. 
  • Kent State University, Oberlin College and Ohio State University have canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. Classes will be online. Kent State has also postponed pre-commencement and commencement for spring. Many other schools are doing the same. 
  • Ohio has temporarily banned mass gatherings of 100 or more people together in close promiximity in a certain place. This includes parades, fairs, theaters and more.

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Lydia Taylor is a news intern for WKSU. She is a junior multimedia journalism major at Kent State University with experience in print and visual journalism. She is currently working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Journalism. During the school year, Taylor works for Kent State Student Media in The Kent Stater and KentWired. She is currently an assigning editor and a reporter in the Kent State University Student Media Newsroom for the spring semester.