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 — Ohio's health director gave a more encouraging though forewarning outlook Tuesday on the state's preparedness for an upcoming surge in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Amy Acton, sharing a briefing with Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, said modeling shows the state flattening the curve and positioning itself to avoid the spike seen in other parts of the country.
"We've bought precious time," Acton said, "We've been working a full-court press trying to get ready for the storm. We've moved to the blue phase" on her chart.
Acton said social distancing, DeWine's school closures and stay-at-home order and efforts to maximize hospital beds for a rush in COVID-19 patients have put Ohio in a better position to ride out the storm.
.@DrAmyActon: What we are doing now will get us out of this faster and back to work faster. I feel confident that we are using the best modeling possible. All models agree that #SocialDistancing is essential. pic.twitter.com/ttFrvMGDqs
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 31, 2020
"I feel that Ohio made decisive moves at the right time," Acton said. "We've worked hard to maximize our health care capacity. We are emptying beds in hospitals now and you can't do that in the eye of the storm."
WATCH Tuesday's briefing.
Acton called social distancing "essential" and implored Ohioans to stay at home and continue to avoid contact or their good work so far could be wasted.
Meanwhile, the state's numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths jumped since Monday to 2,199 confirmed cases (up 266) and 55 deaths (up 16). Hospitalizations are 585.
In other announcements:
- Husted announced improvements aimed to end the foulup over filing for unemployment benefits. He said capacity has been increased times 20 online and at the call center. Husted said the state has received more requests in the last two weeks than in the last two years. He said benefits would be backdated to when an applicant became eligible.
- DeWine said he is considering releasing some non-violent prison inmates on "a case-by-case basis." He mentioned inmates who have served most of their sentence, who have medical problems or whose age puts them at a high-risk for COVID-19. "We are not going to turn loose sexual offenders, sexual predators," DeWine made clear. He said he feels a great responsibility to ensure the safety of prison staff and inmates while recognizing "we also have an obligation to the people outside." He added: "We will be very careful about how we are looking at this."
- Asked if everyone should wear homemade cloth masks when they're out of the house, Acton appeared to give the idea a cool response at first, then an endorsement. She said Ohioans should "assume you have it and assume each other has it." She said a cloth mask "can help in not spreading those respiratory big droplets and spewing stuff out in the air." But Acton said "masks are not often used well." She said she is "anxiously awaiting" guidance from the CDC, then spoke more highly of the idea. She called a cloth mask "a great alternative" for people who don't have surgical masks. "The CDC has always had guidance on using bandanas, scarves, any kind of cloth," she said. "A lot of people have reached out to me. When Fran DeWine was here showing some of those cloth masks, I think it's a great thing to be making." Acton then demonstrated that people should sneeze into their elbows even when wearing a mask, and added "and we can use that when we're out and about on errands."
- DeWine said Acton would order a weekly inventory of ventilators at Ohio health-care facilities "in case we have to move some around." That would include CPAP and DPAP machines, but the order does not apply to individuals who possess them for personal use.
- DeWine gave a state order mandating public water service be preserved and ordering utilities to restore water service to anyone cut off since Jan. 1. People affected must call their utility.
- DeWine indicated he would extend the stay-at-home order before it expires Friday.
— Evan Millward (@EvanMillward) March 31, 2020
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 email@example.com
- 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.