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DeWine Warns Of Protective Gear Shortage; Coronavirus Update, March 25, 2020

Updated: 6:11 p.m., Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Two more coronavirus deaths in Ohio brought the statewide total to 10 as the number of confirmed cases across the state climbed to 704 Wednesday.

"It's getting a little more close now as we have more numbers," said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton.

Of the confirmed COVID-19 infections, 116 are healthcare workers, Acton said, though it’s unknown if those workers came into contact with the virus on the job or earlier in the pandemic, before real understanding of the need to take precautions became widespread.

“Before you interact with anyone, before you go to an emergency room, if you can, call first,” Acton recommended.

With personal protective equipment (PPE) in short supply, healthcare workers are turning to any available resource for more hospital gowns, gloves, face shields and particularly N95 respiratory face masks.

“We did get our share from the Strategic National Stockpile, but it is not enough,” said Gov. Mike DeWine, adding that Ohio’s technical schools, training programs and even nail salons are being asked to donate whatever PPE they can spare.

Cuyahoga County is struggling to acquire needed protective gear for first responders and other employees who must enter private homes as part of their work, County Executive Armond Budish said in his daily briefing Monday.

“I have authorized as much money as needed to get those PPE and we will distribute it if we get it,” Budish said. “We’re competing. It’s international. It's not just local. It’s not just national.”

A little more than 24 hours after the governor’s two-week stay-at-home order went into effect, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Wednesday the DeWine Administration, ODH and other government offices are still fielding “lots of questions” on what constitutes an essential business in the Buckeye State through the duration of the pandemic.

“We ask you to just simply read the order,” he said “You need to use your own good judgment of the plain reading of that order to make your determination.”

DeWine says he's already taking action Wednesday against a company not following the order. 

"I suspect it will not be the last company where people who clearly cannot function, or not come under the category of essential, are staying in business," DeWine said. "We can't have that."

Husted said it is partially an issue of fairness. 

"We're not trying to crack down on anybody, but it's not fair for one business to do the right thing in one industry sector and another business in that industry sector not to do the right thing," he said.

The state legislature on Wednesday voted to extend absentee voting for the March 17 primary to April 28, but the move doesn't reopen voter registration or reopen the polls for a day of in-person voting.

Husted – formerly Ohio's Secretary of State, the post charged with overseeing elections – a said he hoping for a longer absentee-voting period.

"We will make the best of it," Husted said. "There will be a 30-day window which will be a similar time window of what they would've normally had. [Secretary of State Frank LaRose] is going to try to do some things to supplement to make sure that everybody who wants to cast a ballot does, but there's no doubt we would've hoped for a longer period of time."

Husted has been tasked with handling Ohio’s coronavirus-related business assistance and unemployment claims and said Wednesday the state is beefing up online unemployment services due to continued problems with the site after 400,000 people attempted to log on Tuesday. 

"The team reassures me that they're putting every effort into this that they can," Husted said. "We're working overtime at it, we're bringing every human capability that we have to the technology that's available."

The stay-at-home order is in force until April 6, when state officials are expected to reevaluate the pandemic’s progress in Ohio.

Major League Baseball's Opening Day was scheduled for Thursday, and DeWine had a message of hope for sports fans. 

"Tomorrow, which would've been Opening Day, I'm going to wear my Reds tie and the day after I'm going to wear an Indians tie," DeWine said. "So, things to come: We will play baseball again."

Ohio’s First Lady Fran DeWine made an appearance at the beginning of the briefing, offering insight into the more personal side of the pandemic at the governor’s residence. She showcased homemade masks, saying “these are not what our hospitals need” but they can “help you keep your germs to yourself” and said she’ll be posting a recipe for the black bean soup she and the governor enjoyed Tuesday night. Her homemade chicken and noodles recipe went viral when she posted it on Twitter last week.

"What will our children say?" Fran DeWine asked. "Are they going to say, this is the time that I got to spend so much time with my mom and my dad and we read books together and we cooked together and we just had all sorts of great memories?

"We have to think of this as a time that we have to do extra special things with our kids to make it really good," she said.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio


During these trying times, ideastream is dedicated to keeping you, the Northeast Ohio community, informed by providing trusted, up-to-date information that you need to know, as it happens.

From special coverage of briefings by the president and governor to information about health resources and opportunities to ask questions of local and national health experts, ideastream is committed to providing you with all the information you need to know about COVID-19, as it happens. Visit www.ideastream.org/coronavirus for the latest.