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26 COVID-19 Cases In Ohio, State Focuses On Mental Health, Addiction Services Amid Pandemic

Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio Department of Health, talks about the importance of conserving medical masks [Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau]
Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio Department of Health, talks about the importance of conserving medical masks.

Health officials have confirmed 26 cases of COVID-19 in the state, which is 10 more cases than Friday. At least 11 are in Cuyahoga County and two are in Summit County. 

At a press conference Saturday, Gov. Mike DeWine focused on individuals struggling with addiction and mental health challenges. 

"What we know is during a pandemic, mental health challenges go up," DeWine said. 

Lori Criss, the director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction services, said new telehealth services will be available, including a landline and videochat opportunities with health professionals. 

Ohio will also implement a COVID-19 treatment plan that will deliver medications to patients' homes as facilities begin to limit or prohibit visitors. Pharmacies are also making sure they have adequate supplies of medications. 

Criss said it's easy to be stressed during the pandemic, but there are ways to keep anxiety at bay. 

"Getting information from a trusted resource is the most important thing," Criss said. She also recommended limiting media exposure, reducing stress and reaching out to a friend or a professional for help. 

Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, said the increase in cases is expected and the numbers will continue to go up. 

"We are not flying blindly. We have science behind us. We have pandemic plans," Acton said. 

"This should not alarm people. We knew this was coming," DeWine said.

A large part of those plans include in-house testing at hospitals across the state. 

Cleveland Clinic started  offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing Saturday. The testing is in partnership with University Hospitals, which will start offering the service Monday.  

But as Acton said, "It's not a drive-up like McDonald's." Patients must have a doctor's order. 

The Clinic received testing kits a few days ago, which can produce results within eight hours. Before, tests would have to be sent out and took around two days to get results.

DeWine and Acton both stressed preventive measures need to be taken seriously. DeWine said COVID-19 is twice as contagious as the flu and "20 times more deadly." There are estimates that 40% to 70% of the population will get sick. 

They emphasized the need for social distancing, staying at least 6-feet away from other people, frequently washing hands and being aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 — coughing, fever and respiratory distress. 

But most importantly, DeWine said Ohioans need to stick together. 

"We're in this for the long run," he said.

Officials encourage those who are healthy to find ways to give back to the community, such as donating blood to the American Red Cross and helping out local food banks, which are both asking for volunteers.

Here's what has happened over the last few days:

  • Summit Countyconfirmed its first case of COVID-19 Friday. A woman in her 50s is a case of community spread, which means she didn't travel or have direct contact with other COVID-19 patients. The county and the city of Akron have declared public health emergencies. All community centers in Akron will close Monday. Polling locations will still be open for the primary Tuesday. Some locations have been moved out of nursing homes. Check the list here
  • President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. This allows the White House to get direct aid quickly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disasters and health crises. Trump has also been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results. 
  • Lawmakers plan to send a letter to Trump with 17 requests for state relief, such as having access to more protective equipment for health care workers. 
  • DeWine issued an order that prohibits visitors in jails. The state also isn't allowing visitors in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and psychiatric facilities. 
  • Ohio K-12 schools will shut down Monday afternoon for three weeks. Some have already closed. DeWine said he will help schools with whatever they need, but it's up to administrators to figure out how to determine details of educating students while they're at home and when they return. 
  • Kent State University, Oberlin College and Ohio State University have canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. Classes will be online. Large gatherings such as graduation will be reevaluated at a later date. Many colleges have suspended in-person classes until mid-April. 
  • Ohio has temporarily banned mass gatherings of 100 or more people together in close promiximity in a certain place. This includes parades, fairs, theaters and more. 
  • Many events have been canceled across the state. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame postponed its induction ceremony, Vice President Mike Pence is no longer visiting Summit County and the Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament canceled the restof its games, along with many other conferences like NCAA. 

For all the latest information on the coronavirus outbreak, click  here

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