COLUMBUS — A total of 84 of Ohio’s 88 counties are now reporting positive cases of COVID-19, according to information presented by Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton during Thursday’s daily news conference.
As of the 2 p.m. update on Thursday, more than 55,000 people have been tested in the state, with 5,512 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That numbers is a 364 case increase from Wednesday. There have been 213 deaths as of Thursday, up from 193 on Wednesday. To date, there have been a total of 1,612 hospital admissions, with 497 of those admitted to the ICU.
Acton, Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted provided the update on numbers and more information as protesters could be heard outside the statehouse.
According to the Associated Press, about 75 people wearing masks and carrying signs protested outside the Ohio Statehouse, calling on Gov. DeWine to reopen businesses and questioning the models used by Dr. Acton to continue her shelter-at-home order.
“This has been a tough week and we are seeing a lot of deaths here in Ohio. We also are seeing a lot of confusing messages out in the media and I want to say to you Ohioans, stay strong, keep doing the right thing,” said Acton.
“I don’t know if you can hear through the television but there are people protesting right now outside the statehouse. People are worried, they’re afraid, they’re afraid about things like their jobs, and I want you to know, that we are working just as rigorously on the recovery from this. We’ve been determined to protect Ohioans from the very beginning, and the steps we have taken and you are continuing to take are saving lives,” said Acton.
“We have to be redetermined on responsibly recovering,” said Acton, noting that more on the plan for recovery will be discussed next week.
Acton used the analogy of how this situation is like climbing a mountain as we carefully climb up the mountain, but just as carefully come back down. “Climbing mountains takes an incredible amount of teamwork,” said Acton.
“Every move we’re making is based on the best science and we will not leave your side as we get you carefully through this arduous journey ahead. … We are climbing and are reaching a peak of a mountain here in Ohio, and we will be seeing a lot of hospitalizations and deaths, but we will escort you equally as carefully and we hope to be one of the most aggressive and assertive states on that recovery getting down that mountain and getting back to our lives but we must do it responsibly.”
Of the protesters, DeWine said he is a supporter of the first amendment and that the stay-at-home order specifically protests first amendment rights.
“The folks who are outside have every right to be out there. They have every right to say whatever they want to say so we respect that,” said DeWine.
The Governor reassured Ohioans that they are doing what is necessary and will not keep the order on longer than needed.
“We’re not going to keep these orders on one day longer than we have to. What I’m asking Ohioans to do is hang in there. All the evidence that we have indicates that if we don’t hang in there, if we don’t continue to do what doing. It’s going to cost a lot of lives and its going to delay our ability to economically recover,” said DeWine.
DeWine added that they will do everything they can to prevent a “re-spike” of the virus.
“This frustration out there, I get it, I’m frustrated as well, but we’re Ohioans, we’re tough, we got to hang in there because if we don’t we’re going to pay the price and its going to be a heavy, heavy toll,” said DeWine.
In other COVID-19 related developments on Thursday, Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins reported:
Nearly 700,000 people filed for unemployment in the last three weeks, the state Department of Job and Family Services said, almost double the 364,603 claims filed in all of 2019. The 226,007 claims filed for the week ending April marked the second consecutive week that claims topped 200,000.
Ohio has paid more than $124 million so far to more than 195,000 people who have filed unemployment claims, Job and Family Services Director Kimberly Hall said on Wednesday.
Nationally, 1 in 10 members of the U.S. labor force are now out of work as 6.6 million file for jobless aid across the country.
In Ohio, the staggering claims data comes even as many employers are looking for workers. Nearly 500 employers have posted more than 33,000 jobs including health care, protective equipment manufacturing, and food distribution positions, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said.
Seven Ohio prisons are under full quarantines, with 19 inmates and 53 employees having tested positive. One prison guard died. Marion Correctional Institution, where guard John Dawson worked, also has the most staff infections at 34.
The governor has proposed the release of about 200 inmates to make room for more social distancing. No violent or sex offenders would be released, nor would inmates with poor prison records or domestic violence convictions, or those who were previously imprisoned. Ohio houses about 49,000 inmates.
DeWine announced that 19 manufacturers are partnering with three hospital groups to create as many as 1 million face shields over the next few weeks.
The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio sent nearly $500,000 in grants to local homeless shelters to help limit the spread of COVID-19 among residents, staff, and the community.
Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.