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Mayor: Three confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cincinnati

Posted at 12:11 PM, Mar 20, 2020

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.

CINCINNATI - Mayor John Cranley said there are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city during a Friday afternoon news briefing, after a previous announcement by city health officials said there are four. Eleven people are awaiting tests through the city health department.

Health Commissioner Melba Moore and Interim medical director Dr. Grant Mussman had reported four confirmed cases at an earlier briefing Friday. During that briefing, Cranley said there weren't enough COVID-19 tests and Mussman said health officials are "concerned about community spread."

In a separate statement, Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank reported that some employees tested positive and others asked to self-quarantine. The statement didn't say where those employees live or work, whether in Cincinnati or out of the Tri-State. The bank has locations in 10 states, according to its website.

At least one person in the city who tested positive had not traveled recently and does not have “known exposures,” according to Mussman.

“We are continuing to look into that … obviously we are concerned about community spread,” Mussman said.

The ages of the city's first COVID-19 patients range from 31 to 70 years old, Moore said. Officials are working to determine close contacts and next steps for people who have come into contact with them.

Watch the early Friday press conference in the player below:

The confirmed cases tested positive between March 13 and March 17.

Moore said all of the tests were conducted by private labs.

Mussman said city officials just found out about the confirmed cases on Friday.

“As these were tested by private laboratory, we are just finding out about the positives now as they have come in,” Mussman said.

Cranley said city officials continue to ask for more COVID-19 tests.

“We know that there are insufficient tests to cover and test everybody who would want testing and ideally would get testing,” Cranley said.

Fifth Third's statement did not say how many employees tested positive. The bank said it took action to safeguard employees and customers at all of its locations, including "enhanced sanitizing and cleaning of the office space and common areas."

Friday's announcements came a day after Hamilton County officials announced two confirmed cases in the county. Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus urged people to stay home.

Cranley echoed that statement and said people should only leave their homes if absolutely necessary.

"What we need folks to do more than ever is stay home, if you can," Cranley said. "If you can work from home … please do so.”

Cranley said if people must go to work or to the grocery store, they should maintain 6 feet of distance if they must go out.

If you think you have the virus (fever, cough, shortness of breath are symptoms), do not go to the emergency room. Call your primary care doctor or call 513-357-7462.

Relief funds for essential services

City Council unanimously approved a measure Friday to borrow up to $150 million to ensure fire, police, sanitation and other essential services are not interrupted during the pandemic. Cranley said the money is a safeguard for the city to use only if it needs to.

"I do not want to spend this money. We do not want to spend this money," Cranley said. "I'm not worried though if things get really bad, we might agree to spend some of it to preserve police and fire services in a true crisis."

Proceeds from the city's lease on the Cincinnati Southern Railway will be used to support the debt. The state tax commissioner and the board of health would still need to approve the funds, and a lender would need to agree.

"We're all hopeful that the is going to pass and then we won't even need to draw these funds," said Assistant City Manager Christopher Bigham. "But, the more we have the better because it gives us the flexibility to do what we need to do."

Additionally, the money cannot be spent without City Council approving an appropriation ordinance.

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Find coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:

Ohio

  • Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
  • See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.

Kentucky

  • State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
  • See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.

Indiana

  • SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail epiresource@isdh.in.gov
  • 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, but it can be spread even at asymptomatic stages.