COLUMBUS, Ohio — In their 20th daily news briefing since the first COVID-19 diagnoses in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine asked private businesses to consider manufacturing personal protective equipment and Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton implored hospitals not to turn patients away over insurance or billing concerns.
“I’ve heard horrifying stories about people showing up places without insurance and being turned away around this country,” Acton said. “Ohio, we can’t do this. This is an emergency. We take everyone and figure out the back end later. This isn’t about billable at this point.”
The pair had announced three cases of COVID-19 during their first briefing on March 9. By Saturday afternoon, ODh had confirmed 1,406 diagnoses, 334 hospitalizations and 25 deaths.
The numbers available to officials are about five days behind actual totals, Acton said. She and other healthcare experts continue to anticipate a sharp spike in the number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed each day, with a peak of up to 10,000 daily diagnoses arriving in early May.
The state’s hospitals will spent the next several weeks working to build their capacity in preparation for that peak, DeWine said. Rough drafts of hospital system plans for expanding their supply of rooms, gloves and masks had been due Saturday morning at 9 a.m.; final drafts should be finished by mid-week.
One of the most pressing concerns for all healthcare systems is the need for personal protective equipment — PPE — such as gloves, masks and gowns to protect frontline workers, DeWine said. According to the governor, treating a single patient can consume as many as 66 pieces of PPE per day.
DeWine pleaded publicly with the FDA to approve a mask sanitizing machine constructed by Columbus-based tehcnology nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute.
Each device can sanitize 80,000 masks each day. If the FDA approves their use, Ohio will get two machines.
In the meantime, DeWine said, any company that has access to PPE or the ability to make it should be in touch with the government.
“If you are a manufacturer and you can make any of this stuff, we need to hear from you immediately,” he said.
Standing several feet apart, he and Acton held up opposite ends of a poster listing the state’s “10 Most Wanted:” Surgical gowns, surgical masks, gloves, N-95 particulate respirators, isolation gowns, face shields, Tyvek coveralls, thermometers, foot coverings and ventilator tubing.
They’re not the only things Ohio needs, DeWine said. But they’re the things Ohio needs most.
Anyone with the ability to donate these items can contact the state at email@example.com.
Although a peak of 10,000 cases per day sounds frightening, Acton said, it’s a much smaller number than it would have been without interventions such as social distancing, closing schools and ordering the closure of non-essential businesses. Acton thanked all Ohioans who have worked to stop the spread by quarantining themselves and following health experts’ guidelines.
“We know the wave is coming, but we know it’s getting smaller every day in Ohio because of you,” she said.