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First Ohio COVID-19 Death Confirmed, Cases Rise To 169

Ohio's coronavirus cases include 69 females and 100 males and range in age from 1 to 91 years old, said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health. [The Ohio Channel]
Dr. Amy Acton at a podium in the Ohio Statehouse

Updated: 3:55 p.m., Friday, March 20, 2020

A Lucas County man has died of the coronavirus, the first in Ohio to lose his life to the global pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine announced at a Friday afternoon news conference.

The announcement comes as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio rises to 169, with 39 hospitalizations.

DeWine described the man, Mark Wagoner Sr., as a well-liked and respected Toledo attorney who was prominent in the state Republican Party.

The battle against coronavirus has entered a new phase, the governor said.

“For a while it’s going to seem like we are in fact living in the valley of death,” DeWine said, referencing Psalm 23. “It will seem like we’re living in the valley of that shadow. But we will get through this, we will get through this. The sun will shine again. It will be spring again in this wonderful, beautiful state of Ohio.”

Senior centers and older-adult day cares across the state will close, effective at the end of the day Monday, DeWine announced. Ohioans who receive meals at those centers will have them brought to their homes instead.

“Our grave concern is about the danger of those seniors being together and about the spread of disease,” DeWine said.

DeWine did not close day cares for children, but said that order would be coming after centers ensure that kids have a place to go. Daycare attendance numbers have dropped as families have pulled their children out, he said.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) began taking steps to create a backup plan for the children of essential workers if and when day care centers must close.

The state is also contending with its first nursing home cluster outbreak of the coronavirus in Miami County, Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said.

DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted urged businesses to guard against the spread of coronavirus by checking employees’ temperatures, maintaining distance in the office and cleaning equipment and surfaces.

To workplaces that aren’t taking these steps, Husted had stern words: “You are acting irresponsibly and you are putting us all in jeopardy.”

Ohio’s response to the coronavirus has altered daily life dramatically in just one week’s time.

Restaurants and many other service-sector businesses have scaled back operations or closed altogether, leaving thousands out of work. Ohio recorded nearly 140,000 jobless claims this week as of Thursday, almost 30 times the number of claims in the previous week.

To help defray some of the economic toll of the crisis, Ohio will allow employers to delay paying health insurance premiums for 60 days, Husted said. Workers must still receive health benefits even if they no longer work enough hours to be covered, he said.

Meanwhile, social service agencies are trying to meet a growing need. DeWine activated the Ohio National Guard earlier this week, sending about 400 Guard members to distribute supplies at food banks and other locations.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.