COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine activated 300 members of the Ohio National Guard on Thursday to support food banks, including Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The service members will transport, package and distribute food to “homes in vulnerable areas, community-based locations and partner agencies in rural counties,” according to a news release from DeWine’s office.
Members of the 37th Infantry Bridge Combat Team will help with food distribution in Allen, Butler, Clark, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Hocking, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery and Summit counties.
DeWine had raised the possibility of activating the national guard during his Wednesday daily news briefing, stressing then that they would only be employed in a support capacity to assist community programs such as food banks and medical services.
At his Thursday briefing, DeWine congratulated Ohioans acting to help each other as increasing numbers of businesses and government agencies restrict their services to limit in-person congregation.
“It truly is a patriotic act, what people are doing,” he said, holding up a Columbus Post-Dispatch headline reading Good deeds galore.
DeWine made few announcements Thursday, instead stepping aside to let Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor make recommendations for Ohio's courts and state Medicaid director Maureen Corcoran announce expansions to Ohio telehealth services.
Corcoran said DeWine had signed an executive order enabling more Ohioans to access healthcare remotely, including via video conferencing, chatting and email. Notably, people without a primary care physician can now sign up for telehealth appointments, and a wide range of medical practitioners — physicians, occupational therapists, psychologists, dependency counselors, audiologists and others — can accept remote appointments.
Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton provided a numbers update after DeWine, O'Connor and Corcoran had spoken.
Ohio's various health programs had diagnosed 119 cases of COVID-19 by Thursday afternoon, she said. The patients' dates of onset ranged from Feb. 7 to March 18. Thirty-three of the patients were hospitalized, including a Hamilton County man in his 60s.
Acton said the number of diagnoses will continue to increase — the pandemic curve is on its way up, as experts expected, and the virus is "a moving train," she said. State government and healthcare workers must do their best to manage it even as it barrels ahead.
"We have to fight the war we have with the weapons we have," she said.
Acton advised Ohioans to continue the acts of patriotism DeWine had praised — including seemingly smalls ones such as remaining at home, obeying government containment instructions and practicing good hygiene.
“Every day and every one of us matters," she said.