COLUMBUS — Ohio has received a federal disaster declaration, stated Governor Mike DeWine in has Wednesday afternoon COVID-19 daily update news conference.
According to a news release on the White House website, on Tuesday, “President Donald J. Trump declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Ohio and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic beginning on January 20, 2020, and continuing.”
Federal funding is available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, for all areas in the State of Ohio impacted by COVID-19.
Also during the news conference, DeWine announced the establishment of the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19.
The collaborative public-private partnership will coordinate efforts to provide healthcare workers and first responders with the personal protective equipment (PPE).
“This new alliance will work to more quickly mobilize every manufacturer capable of helping us make PPE and win the fight against our lethal enemy,” said Governor DeWine in a news release. “This effort is important because it not only enables us to meet the immediate challenges, but it will also strengthen our PPE supply chains permanently so we are not dependent on other countries moving forward.”
The alliance includes: Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Ohio Hospital Association, Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, nursing home organizations, JobsOhio, Ohio Department of Administrative Services, Ohio Development Services Agency, and the Ohio Department of Health.
The alliance is working to identify and match the critical needs of Ohio’s healthcare system with companies willing and able to repurpose production to meet those needs.
Manufacturers that can help should visit RepurposingProject.com for more information. Those involved with this project will be compensated.
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton signed an order during the news conference related to testing.
Under the order, which is designed to give a faster turnaround on results, all hospitals that cannot conduct their own tests must send the specimens to one of the other hospitals which can handle the test. Currently, those labss include: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals in Cleveland, and MetroHealth. Other labs with testing capacity may be added to this list in the future.
“These labs have a massive capacity that isn’t being fully utilized right now, and these labs can turn around results more quickly than what private labs have been doing,” said Governor DeWine. “Getting test results more quickly provides peace of mind to patients and their families and gives us the best data possible so we can make decisions about where to allocate resources.”
The Ohio Department of Health will continue to analyze tests for the most critical patients, including hospitalized and symptomatic healthcare workers.
The order also directs hospitals to immediately begin utilizing new rapid tests as soon as they become available in an organized framework utilizing freestanding emergency departments, urgent care centers, free-standing ambulatory surgery centers that are not in use due to postponement of elective surgeries, and hospital multi-use healthcare facilities that house a lab service.
In order to help limit exposure to some of Ohio’s most vulnerable residents, DeWine announced the SNAP “click and connect” which will allow SNAP recipients to shop online and do curbside pickup where available.
Lt. Governor Jon Husted addressed requests that the state has received from grocery store owners in order to help keep both employees and customers safe.
Stores are asking that customers: Shop patiently; Limit shopping trips; Shop alone, when possible; Stay home when you’re not feeling well; Wash/sanitize hands before and after; Don’t touch your face while shopping; Wear a mask/gloves if you can; Shop online for curbside pickup/delivery where available.
DeWine signed an executive order on Wednesday which issues a “plea” to landlords and lenders to work with small businesses and suspend payments for at least 90 days.
During her comments at the news conference, Dr. Acton reminded everyone to “be kind” to one another, and that “everyone we interact with is going through the same stress.” She added that, “Just like the virus is contagious, our moods are contagious.”
When asked how quickley she saw the state coming out of this following the “surge”, Acton stated, “I wish I could give you hope about your summer, but the truth is if the curve peaks in May, it will be a slow process to get to the end of the curve.”
Governor DeWine was asked about businesses which have reopened which are non-essential.
“This is a national emergency. What people do in their lives is normally their own business. But when what you do endangers other people, we have to take action,” said DeWine. He noted that local authorities do have the ability to enforce the order when a non-essential business refuses to close.
As for churches which continue to meet during the pandemic, DeWine stated, “Anyone who goes into a big group of people is making a very, very serious mistake. They’re endangering themselves, their family, and total strangers. Any pastor who brings a group of people together — it’s a huge mistake.”
DeWine stated that an additional order is coming on Thursday to further address some of the matters asked about during the news conference.
As of the Wednesday update at 2 p.m., Ohio has 2,547 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (this number does not include the two newly reported Gallia County cases). There have been 65 fatalities across the state. To date, a total of 679 people have been hospitalized, with 222 of those admitted to the ICU. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Video of today’s full update, including versions with foreign language closed captioning, can be viewed on the Ohio Channel’s YouTube page.
For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
A portion of the information provided by the Office of Governor Mike DeWine.
© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.