DeWine blasts FDA for limiting surgical mask sterilization

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted today (March 29) expressed deep disappointment in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision to limit the use of new technology to sterilize desperately needed surgical masks in Ohio and other parts of the United States as the nation continues to battle the deadly COVID-19 virus. 

As of Sunday, Ohio had 1,653 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 29 deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health. This is an increase from Friday when the state had 1,137 confirmed cases and 19 deaths.  

The masks are part of the personal protective gear doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers need to care for COVID-19 and other desperately ill patients. 

Gov. DeWine said Sunday that the FDA authorized Columbus-based Battelle to sterilize only 10,000 surgical masks in Ohio each day, despite the company's ability to sterilize up to 160,000 masks per day in Ohio alone. 

The authorization of 10,000 masks per day is limited to Battelle's Columbus headquarters and prevents Battelle from sending its groundbreaking technology to other states such Washington and New York, as well as Washington D.C. and the Virginia and Maryland areas, state officials said. 

"The FDA's decision to severely limit the use of this life-saving technology is nothing short of reckless," Gov. DeWine said. "Battelle's innovative technology has the capability to protect healthcare professionals and first responders in Ohio and across the country, but in this time of crisis, the FDA has decided not to support those who are risking their lives to save others. This is a matter of life and death. I am not only disappointed by this development, but I'm also stunned that the FDA would decline to do all it can to protect this country's frontline workers in this serious time of need." 

In addition to offering this technology in Ohio, Battelle had intended to send one machine to New York City and one to Stony Brook, New York, which would have allowed for the sterilization of up to 160,000 surgical masks for New York's healthcare workers each day. Machines would have also been dispatched to the state of Washington and the Washington D.C. metro area, Ohio officials said. 

Battelle had planned to ship four more units elsewhere in the United States next week and 15 additional machines in the coming weeks, Gov. DeWine added. 

Gov. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Husted said they will continue to fight for increased use of this life-saving technology. 

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Ohio COVID-19 cases at 1,137 with 19 deaths on Friday

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday (March 27) said he has divided the state into eight hospital regions and set a deadline of noon Saturday for leaders of each area to have a preliminary plan on his desk in regard to preparing for the predicted surge of COVID-19 cases.  The final draft is due by noon Monday.

Gov. DeWine said during his daily press conference on Friday that state and Cleveland Clinic leaders met via telephone to review modeling used in forecasting the impact of COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus that is sweeping the world.

Within two weeks, the virus is likely to kick in much harder and continue on the upswing increasing patients in hospitals across the state, Gov. DeWine said of the Cleveland Clinic data.

The peak of the virus in Ohio is likely to come in mid-May, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said citing the data.

During the peak, Dr. Acton said, the clinic’s modeling shows that there could be as many as 10,000 new cases per day statewide.  

Dr. Acton said there is a plan in the works to redirect the skills of some medical providers to care for patients who contract the deadly virus. It could be graduating fourth-year medical school students early and waiving some requirements or having plastic surgeons work in other capacities during this crisis since the state has banned elective procedures temporarily to preserve resources for COVID-19 cases, she said. This plan remains in the works, she said.

Gov. DeWine said the clinic data also indicates a need to double or more realistically triple the number of intensive care beds across Ohio to prepare for the predicted upswing.  

“We have a long way to go,” Gov. DeWine said in regard to needed medical facilities, “and that’s the stark reality.”

The goal is to have enough beds and medical personnel to care for COVID-19 patients regardless of where they live in the state, Gov. DeWine said.

As of Friday, Ohio had 1,137 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 19 deaths of patients ranging in age from 58 to 93, Dr. Acton said. Of that confirmed case number, 186 are healthcare workers, she said, about 16-percent of the total.

During the press conference, Gov. DeWine signed House Bill 197 passed by the General Assembly addressing issues linked to the onset of the virus.   The bill extends the primary election through April 28 with mail-in voting only, waves state testing requirements this year for public school children grades 12 and under, temporarily extends licenses for medical professionals such as nurses, permits virtual meetings for local governments during the crisis, bans water disconnections and extends the state tax filing deadline to July 15.  

“I thank the members of the General Assembly for passing it in a bipartisan way,” Gov. DeWine said.

The stay-at-home order will remain in place, Gov. DeWine said. When asked about President Donald Trump’s comments that gathering limits should be relaxed by Easter, Gov. DeWine said he had not read the president’s complete statement.

Gov. DeWine continued to urge citizens to observe physical distancing of at least 6 feet and stay at home. “That’s something each one of us can control. By not being in clusters, we slow the spread of the virus. Slowing the process buys our health infrastructure more time to build up until the surge comes,” the governor said. 

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Six COVID-19 deaths in Ohio as of Monday

Three more deaths from COVID-19 were announced Monday by state officials bringing Ohio’s death toll to six since the state began keeping track on Feb. 7.

Officials said during Gov. Mike DeWine’s daily press conference on March 23 that the most recent deaths included  two in Franklin County and one in Stark County.  Last week, attorney Mark Wagoner, Sr., 76, of Toledo, a 91-year-old man from Cuyahoga County and an 85-year-old man from Erie County succumbed to the coronavirus sweeping the globe.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said there were 442 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state as of Monday that included 104 patients being treated in hospitals in 46 counties. That number is up from 351 cases reported on Sunday, a 26-percent increase.

Gov. DeWine announced an immediate hiring freeze in state government, except for those directly involved in the COVID-19 fight. All members of his cabinet have been asked to immediately look for spending and budget cuts of up to 20 percent, he said, adding that not all agencies would be able to do this.

The governor said he wants a freeze on new contract services, and that a freeze on state travel issued early in the coronavirus fight will continue.

When asked whether abortions were considered elective under the state health department’s order banning elective surgeries during the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. DeWine said the press needs to consult with the state attorney general who is working on the legalities with other attorneys.    

Gov. DeWine’s order to close nonessential businesses and have residents stay at home goes into effect tonight.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted advised businesses to read the order to determine it they are considered essential or not.  Anyone who suspects a violation should contact their county health department, he said.  

Lt. Gov. Husted said Ohio has been asked by the federal government not to release unemployment numbers. He acknowledged that the state website to file and get information on unemployment compensation was overloaded. He said it should be up and running soon.

Gov. DeWine also ordered all daycare centers be operating under a pandemic childcare license by Thursday with all slots reserved for parents who are healthcare workers and first-responders.  Empty slots can then go to other families, he said.


Ohio residents ordered to stay at home

On Sunday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a stay-at-home order for all residents to stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton signed the order that will begin 11:59 p.m. Monday (March 23) and last until April 6. But the order could be extended.

“Time is of the essence and we have to buy that time,” Gov. DeWine said during the daily press conference on Sunday.

The state also has ordered all nonessential businesses to close.

Gov. DeWine said he has asked the General Assembly to consider suspending standardized testing this year for public schools. State lawmakers are expected to meet this week to look at this and other issues.

Dr. Acton said Ohio has 351 confirmed cases of COVID-19 from Feb. 7 through Sunday morning with 83 of those people needing hospitalization. The age range is 1 through 93 with the median age of 51. Three people in Ohio have succumbed to COVID-19 including residents from Cuyahoga, Erie and Lucas counties.

Under the stay-at-home order, residents will be able to go outside to exercise and even go to a park, Gov. DeWine said, but playgrounds where close contact is possible will be closed.

Dr. Acton urged residents to maintain the practice of physical distancing, staying at least 6 feet apart from others.

Residents also will be permitted to go to grocery stores, take-out restaurants and pharmacies for their essential needs. Deliveries to homes will be permitted under the order, he added.

People with jobs in essential businesses, such as hospitals and grocery stores, can still report to work, he said. Residents who need to care for a family member, friend or pet will be permitted to do so, he added.

Gov. DeWine also ordered restrictions in daycare centers for children. Although the number of children has dramatically declined in the centers since concern over the virus surfaced, he said, limits are needed starting on Thursday. The new restrictions include a ratio of one teacher to six children in each classroom limiting shared space.

Social distancing doesn’t work when there are a large number of children together, the governor said.

Gov. DeWine said state-subsidized child daycare centers are down from 117,000 children earlier this year to 17,000 today. Although the state does not have exact numbers of children in private daycare centers, the estimate was 183,000 before the onset of coronavirus to about 40,000 statewide now.

Dr. Acton expressed optimism that better days will come to Ohio, but sacrifices must be made now.

“There’s no time left, listen to what Italy is telling us. Today is the day,” Dr. Acton said referring to the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world. “This is a war on a silent enemy. I am not afraid, I’m determined.”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said despite anticipated layoffs, companies that provide essential services are hiring including Amazon, grocery stores, drug stores and restaurants that deliver, to name a few.


COVID-19 deaths rise to three in Ohio as of Saturday

As of Saturday (March 21), Ohio had three deaths linked to coronavirus, state Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton announced during the administration’s daily press conference.

The number of COVID-19 cases rose to 247 with 58 people being cared for in hospitals across Ohio, she said. One death was a 91-year-old man from Cuyahoga County and another in Erie County. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 78 between Friday and Saturday.

Dr. Acton said the state is “withholding most of our testing in our lab because we are running out of reagent.” There are clusters of cases in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, Dayton and Tuscarawas County, she added.

Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all adult day care facilities that have more than 10 people closed adding that provision have been made for remote care of these individuals with development disabilities. Small group service can remain open, he added.

Dr. Acton asked Ohio residents to take the governor’s directive seriously. It’s a fallacy to think that states in middle America will not be as hard hit as coastal states such as New York and Washington, she said.

“I implore you to go to the local level and see what’s happening,” Dr. Acton said using Cuyahoga as an example. The county’s Health Commissioner Terry Allan and his staff have been working to triage the system and create tiers of doctors to administer care, she said.

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced that companies can defer Bureau of Workers’ Compensation payments for March, April and May that would provide a little relief in difficult times and leave $200 million in the economy. This covers 249,000 public and private employers, he said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is granting weight waivers to haulers so that larger amount of essential goods can be delivered around the state, Lt. Gov. Husted said.

Ohio Department of Mental Health Director Lori Criss, speaking via video from her home, encouraged residents to keep their appointments with mental health professionals. Many are offering video conferencing sessions, she said.

Although physical distancing is necessary, she said, keeping in touch with family and friends is vital for everyone’s emotional well-being.

“The most important thing to know is you are not alone,” she said. “We have grit. Give your family a sense of hope.”


Ohio has first death due to COVID-19

Mark Wagoner, Sr., of Lucas County is the first to die in Ohio of the coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine announce Friday (March 20) at his daily news conference.

Gov. DeWine also announced the shuttering of senior centers at the close of business on Monday (March 23) and steps to keep health insurance in place for workers. He also hinted that schools could be closed through the end of the academic year.

As of Friday, Ohio recorded 169 cases of COVID-19 with an age range of 1 to 91 and median age 49, according to Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. Those diagnosed with the disease include 69 females and 100 males. Dr. Acton said it is not clear why more males are coming down with COVID-19.

Mr. Wagoner, 76, passed away on March 18 in St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee, according to news reports. Doctors initially thought his double pneumonia had re-emerged, but later determined Mr. Wagoner had contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus. Health officials did not confirm Mr. Wagoner’s diagnosis until tests came back on Friday (March 20).

Investigations into other possible COVID-19 related deaths are ongoing, Dr. Acton said.

Mr. Wagoner was a prominent attorney, member of the Republican Party and member of the Lucas County Board of Elections, according to Gov. DeWine.

“Each time we hear about a new death, it is about someone we loved, someone we wanted to live longer and someone who was cherished by their family and community,” Gov. DeWine said.

Dr. Acton confirmed the first cluster of COVID-19 patients in a nursing home in Miami County. Other clusters could occur, she said, but predicting when and where is difficult.

Hospitals across Ohio are at about 70 percent capacity, she said, adding that frontline healthcare employees are working diligently to care for patients. “We need to thank them. We need them to keep doing their jobs,” Dr. Acton said.

The measures in place including physical distancing and closing unessential businesses are key to slowing down the spread of this virus, she added.

But she encouraged residents to continue to help in the care for those struck down by the disease by delivering food and other essentials to the care sites.

Staying at home is “absolutely essential” for the rest of Ohioans, she said. “We’re not alone, we’re physical distancing, not social distancing.”

In announcing the close of senior citizen centers next week, Gov. DeWine said local officials need to continue programs that serve the elderly including delivering meals to their homes and providing transportation to essential places such as medical offices.

He referred to emails and text messages from residents talking about businesses that are not complying with the directives of physical distancing and having nonessential employees work at home.

“The bad behavior, reckless behavior must stop,” Gov. DeWine said. “I implore you, do what’s right.”

“Protection of life is the most important obligation I have,” the governor said of his oath of office.

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced a grace period for businesses to pay premiums to health insurance companies. The 60-day period would be interest-free and ensure the continuation of coverage for employees regardless of whether their working hours are decreased, Lt. Gov. Husted said.

Despite the closure of schools, Lt. Gov. Husted said students are doing well with distance learning citing an increase in student participation through online classes in the Hilliard City School District.

Gov. DeWine said it is likely kindergarten through 12th grade schools could be closed for the rest of the academic year and standardized testing possibly waved this year.


Geauga title office to be closed to public

At the social distancing recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Gov. Mile DeWine, Geauga County Clerk of Courts Denis Kaminski has instructed her Auto Title Office to be closed to the public starting March 23 until further notice. The closure is consistent with decisions made by other government offices to combat the community spread of the coronavirus. Auto dealer transactions will not be impacted.

People in need of auto titling services are encouraged to mail the appropriate documentation and payment to the Auto Title Office:

Clerk of Courts

Auto Title Office

470 Center St. Bldg. #8 B

Chardon, OH 44024

For more information please visit www.geaugacourts.org or call the auto title office at 440-279-1750 which will remain open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

To ensure an accurate transaction by mail, please call our Auto Title Office or view our titling-by-mail checklist.


Gov. DeWine deploys National Guard to help feed families

Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday (March 19) deployed the Ohio National Guard to help families in need, according to the governor’s office.

Services of the National Guard was put into act at the request of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and in collaboration with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks to help feed seniors, families, and displaced workers.

“Ohio’s foodbanks commend Gov. DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio Adjutant General MG John C. Harris Jr., and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for their steadfast support and leadership,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. “We welcome these National Guard members as part of our foodbank family and thank them for their dedication and diligence in the weeks ahead. We encourage our clients and community members to join us in welcoming them with gratitude and friendship as they assist us in our important work.”

Statewide, approximately 300 National Guard members will be deployed at the 12 foodbank warehouses across the state, which provide food to Ohioans in all 88 counties. The National Guard members will assist Ohio’s foodbanks in procuring, sorting, and packing food into bags and boxes; distributing that food through “no-touch” food distributions and deliveries; and supporting other logistical needs to protect public health and safety while maintaining foodbank operations.

"We have a responsibility to respond when our governor and fellow Ohioans need our assistance," Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., said in a written statement. "We have a long history of supporting the state and nation during times of emergency. Our Guard members are coming from counties across the state to serve their own communities, ensuring their neighbors continue to receive food and pantry items."

Ohio’s foodbanks report that they have implemented several key changes to respond to need while protecting staff, volunteers and clients by minimizing person-to-person contact. Foodbanks, along with their 3,600 member food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters, have transitioned to “no-touch” food distribution using drive-through and delivery models, pre-packaged bags and boxes of food, and “to-go” meals.

"The action I've taken to activate the Ohio National Guard will provide support to food pantries that are low on staff and need help getting food to some of our most vulnerable citizens," said Gov. DeWine. "By looking out for our neighbors and following proper health safety guidelines, we will make it through this together."


Primary election postponed

As of 10 p.m. Monday night, the Ohio primary election for Tuesday was postponed.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Any Acton was to order the polls closed due to a health emergency, according to a press release from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.

This announcement came about eight hours before the polls were set to open at 6:30 a.m. on March 17.

“During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus,” Gov. DeWine stated in a written statement. “While the polls will be closed (Tuesday, March 17), Secretary of State Frank LaRose will seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options so that every voter who wants to vote will be granted that opportunity."

On Monday afternoon, Gov. DeWine and other state officials said they would seek to postpone the election until June 2 in an effort to reduce large crowds that could further spread the COVID-19 virus. Officials backed a lawsuit filed by two older Franklin County residents with health issues who stated that going to the polls would make them fear for their lives and violate their constitutional rights.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Frye said no to the lawsuit explaining that state officials could not guarantee June would be any safer.

“There are too many factors to balance in this unchartered territory to say that we ought to take this away from the legislature and elected statewide officials, and throw it to a Common Pleas court judge in Columbus 12 hours before the election," Judge Frye said before issuing the ruling.

As of Monday night, no election was to go forward. Mr. LaRose had not commented on any solutions to make the election go forward as of Monday night.


Geauga County has first reported COVID-19 case

Geauga Public Health has received its first reported COVID-19 case, according to Health Commissioner Tom Quade.

Mr. Quade said that the department strongly is urging all residents to adhere to Gov. Mike DeWine’s orders to abide by social distancing practices and stay home when possible.

The number of confirmed reported cases of COVID-19 continues to rise sharply in Ohio. As of this moment there is one confirmed reported case in Geauga County. The latest figures from the Ohio Department of Health show 38 confirmed cases of people that tested positive for COVID-19 statewide include one in Geauga, two in Trumbull and 14 in Cuyahoga.

Mr. Quade said that three things can be assumed: First, models suggest there are more people in Geauga County who are already infected and contagious but who are experiencing such mild symptoms that they have not sought medical care and have not been tested. Planning is currently underway to increase access to testing.

Second, the number of confirmed cases will increase moving forward. We are on the front end of this public health threat and should expect our routines to change significantly in the months to come.

Third, because there is no vaccine, the only strategies we have at hand to address the pandemic depend on everyone changing their normal behaviors such as practicing social distancing. These strategies are most effective when they are applied preemptively.

In the past few days, Gov. DeWine ordered all K-12 schools closed through April 3 at the earliest, banned gatherings of 100 people excluding religious services until further notice and closed bars and dine-in restaurants statewide. Restaurants continue to offer take-out services.

“These strategies will save lives,” Mr. Quade said. “How many lives will be saved will depend on the degree to which all Ohioans adhere not only to these orders but also the degree to which they are able to generalize the strategies voluntarily to other settings.”

Mr. Quade said he acknowledges the challenges and sacrifices this new normal will entail but stated that we are all working together to save lives.


Clinic and UH partner for drive-thru testing

Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals of Cleveland have partnered to provide drive-thru COVID-19 testing for patients with a doctor’s order from one of the two medical UH or Cleveland Clinic. The testing began at 11 a.m. on March 14 for Cleveland Clinic patients and on March 16 for UH patients. The testing site will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

The on-site testing will be located in the garage of the jointly-owned W. O. Walker Building in University Circle, 10524 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland. This collaboration propels the capability for rapid testing results to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Northeast Ohio.

“The entire health care community is coming together by responding with tremendous unity, everyone is looking at us to do what is right, and we will,” said Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., President and CEO, Cleveland Clinic. “We are working together to optimize our preparations by standing together as a team to meet the demands of our patients, our families and our communities.”

“We are fortunate to live in an area where the health care institutions have a history of coming together for the greater good of the community,” said Thomas F. Zenty, III, CEO of University Hospitals. “Most recently we showcased this cooperation with our collective response to the region’s opioid epidemic and now we are joining forces again to ensure our neighbors receive necessary and timely care to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Patients without a doctor’s order will not be offered testing at this location. To obtain a medical screening to determine testing necessity, people with symptoms should start with a virtual visit using at Cleveland Clinic’s Express Care Online or call their UH or Cleveland Clinic primary care physician.

Upon arrival to the drive-through location, patients will stay in their car and present their doctor’s order. They will remain in their car as a sample is collected.

Samples collected from this location will be sent to UH and Cleveland Clinic laboratories. Performing testing on-site at local hospitals ensures faster results than sending the samples to the state or outside lab. Results are anticipated to be available within a day. Patients will be tested regardless of their ability to pay; no copays will be charged for the test.

Cleveland Clinic and UH are testing in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. As this situation changes, our procedures will continue to evolve.

For more information visit: https://www.uhhospitals.org/services/coronavirus.

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