Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Gov. Mike DeWine said Saturday the best information he has is that COVID-19 cases will peak in late April or early May, but he warned that numbers will go up "dramatically" in the short term.
WATCH Saturday's briefing in the player above.
Ohio now has 26 confirmed cases of coronavirus - twice as many as was announced Friday - but the state is working hard to keep the outbreak under control, officials said Saturday.
"This should not alarm people. We knew this was coming," DeWine said. "We knew there are many people who would test positive if they were tested. Many people already have this virus and are walking around Ohio. Many people are spreading it, and many people simply do not know they have it. This is the nature of this problem."
Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, indicated that Ohio is better prepared than other states to deal with what's ahead.
"I've heard words like, 'We're flying blindly.' We are not flying blindly," Acton said. "We have science behind us, and we have pandemic plans. But we are now approaching that upsurge and we know we must employ the mitigation strategies that we have."
.@DrAmyActon: We are not flying blind. We have science behind us, and we have a pandemic plan. We are deploying early, targeted, layered interventions. #COVID19 #COVID19OhioReady pic.twitter.com/GmxflOfdi2
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 14, 2020
Acton did not say where the new confirmed cases had been reported. She said the 26 confirmed cases included 14 males and 12 females ages 31 to 86. Seven are in the hospital. A total of 264 persons in Ohio are "under investigation" for the illness.
In the only cases reported in Southwest Ohio, four people in Butler County were treated and released from West Chester Hospital, UC Health announced Friday.
No one in Ohio has died from COVID-19, Acton said.
Acton called coronovirus "a monster."
"We know it's going to spread everywhere," Acton said.
She pointed to a curved graph and said, "We're on an upswing and a week or two makes all the difference ... We have to do everything we can to flatten the curve."
She said it was absolutely necessary to employ the state's "early, targeted, layered interventions" - including reducing large crowds, keeping people at home, and asking people to stay 3 to 6 feet apart.
"Every time we go out and infect 2.28 more people, that curve goes up and we put that stress on the health-care system," Acton said.
DeWine and Acton requested that doctors and patients postpone elective surgeries to ensure that personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, surgical masks and gowns are available and that there are hospital rooms for patients who need them. That request also goes to dentists and veterinarians.
Acton said for people who aren't high risk, "it's OK to ride this out at home" in self-quarantine if symptoms are mild, but persons with severe symptoms should go to their personal physician or a clinic. She said high-risk groups include the elderly and people with pre-existing or underlying health conditions.
For now, Ohio is not offering on-demand coronavirus tests because of the shortage of test kits, Acton said. She said it could be a while before that changes.
Acton said drive-up testing is under consideration "but it won't be like McDonald's." She said it would be necessary to screen candidates beforehand.
Some Ohio hospitals are beginning to screen and restrict visitors, said Dr. Andy Thomas, chief clinical officer at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Thomas advised calling hospitals or checking their websites before you go.
DeWine suggested Ohioans stay home whenever possible and avoid contact.
"Social distancing is the key," DeWine said. "The more we can distance ourselves from others, the better we all will be."
DeWine suggested staying home and reading or watching Netflix or Disney+.
Officials acknowledged the anxiety among Ohioans. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted asked Ohioans who have been hoarding hand-sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, food and paper products to "have a generous spirit."
"There is a tendency during a crisis to look to yourself, so if you've been hoarding things ... have a generous spirit. Find out how you can people because we're all in this together," Husted said.
Husted suggested younger people who are not highly susceptible to the illness could provide food for a neighbor, give blood or help a local food bank.
"We need to become a support network for each other," Husted said.
DeWine said the state's coronavirus call center had already taken 18,000 calls – 1,400 between 9 a.m. and noon Saturday. The number is 1-833-427-5634, but operators are overwhelmed. Better to seek answers online at the state's website, coronavirus.ohio.gov.
In other announcements:
DeWine said anyone 18 and under is eligible for the federal school food program regardless of family income.
Acton said shortages of hospital masks and gowns "are real" and the state may order ambulatory care facilities to redirect them to hospitals.
Acton said she does not believe Ohio's orders closing schools, canceling high school sports tournaments and limiting most public gatherings to no more than 100 people are too strict when some other states have not imposed those restrictions.
Acton said it's reasonable to expect "a baby boom" to result from keeping adults at home.
DeWine clarified his Friday ban on nursing home visitors by saying family and clergy would be permitted in end-of-life situations.
Lori Criss, director of Ohio mental health services, announced new telehealth options for those with mental health and addiction, allowing use of cell phones, landlines, FaceTime and video visitation.
Acton said she is in regular contact with Kentucky health officials and exchanging information with them.
"I will crib off anyone's good idea," Acton said.
The next briefing by state officials will be Monday, Acton said.
Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:
- Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
- See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.
- State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
- See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.
- SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.
What is coronavirus, COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.
The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.
What are the symptoms? How does it spread?
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.
The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.
Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.
The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.