Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday that all kindergarten through 12th grade schools will be closed through at least April 3 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Students still will attend classes on Friday and Monday. The order to close schools goes into effect at the end of the school day on March 16, the governor said at a recent press conference Thursday.
As of Thursday, Ohio had five confirmed cases of coronavirus including three in Cuyahoga, one in Stark County and the latest confirmed case in Trumbull County involving a 55-year-old man. So far, there are 30 negative tests and 52 people under investigation, according to the Director of the Ohio Department of Health Dr. Amy Acton.
Dr. Acton at the press conference described the spread of the coronavirus as a “crisis.” She said that the virus is expected to peak in late April or mid-May and added that there is a community spread.
“It’s so crucial, the moves we’re making in the next two to three days,” she said. “We’re in a crisis situation now. We’re moving quickly. We’re taking decisive action now [that] will slow this disease and stop this trajectory.”
Dr. Acton advised that the number of people infected with the coronavirus doubles every six days. She advised that eventually, at least 40 percent of the population will get the virus.
“This will be the thing that this generation remembers,” she said.
Gov. DeWine said that it is up to each school district to determine access to their buildings besides regular classes. He said that he understands the significant impact that this has on the community, but is confident in his decision.
Educators have discussed how to conduct “distance-learning,” he said, to disrupt learning as little as possible. Dr. Action described the coronavirus as the “one in 50 years pandemic.”
“We are basically slowly shutting down most of our structures of our society,” she added.
Reporters asked about how students will be affected who rely on receiving their breakfast and lunch at school. Gov. DeWine said that most of the school lunch offerings come through federal programs. He said that the state will ask for waivers from the federal government, but many regulations will be broken. The governor advised that state agencies are working as fast as possible to minimize the impact on children and feed those who depend on the meals at school.
“We will do what we have to do and ask for forgiveness later,” Gov. DeWine said.
Dr. Acton said that this is a good time for charity groups to step in and assist where they can, such as providing meals for students while school is canceled.
Gov. DeWine listed various other new regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including closing all nursing homes and state psychiatric units to visitors. Dr. Acton signed an order to ban mass gatherings, defined as an event indoors or outdoors that gathers 100 or more than people together. There are some exceptions, such as malls and airports.
“We’re looking for people to be 6 to 8 feet apart,” Gov. DeWine said. “That’s the safest way to be, so it’s important we do that.”
Dr. Acton encouraged businesses to allow their non-essential employees to work from home. She added that the state testing lab has three test kits now instead of one and has switched to three shifts to process tests faster. She said that all Ohioans need to take precautions so they do not overwhelm the hospital systems. For example, Dr. Acton said that there are only so many ventilators and they must be kept for the critically ill patients.
“This will get back to normal, this is temporary. Everything we’re doing is temporary,” Gov. DeWine said. “We will get back to normal in Ohio.”