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4th Ohioan Tests Positive For COVID-19

Ohio Dept. of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton drew a line signaling the point at which the state's health care system could be overwhelmed by coronavirus. The aim, she said, is to enact preventative measures to ensure the state doesn't reach that threshold. [Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau]
Ohio Dept. of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton points to a graph labeled, "Goals of Community Mitigation for Pandemic Influenza."

Updated: 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

A fourth person in Ohio has tested positive for coronavirus, the Ohio Department of Health announced Wednesday afternoon.

The patient is a 53-year-old man in Stark County. He had no known connection to anyone with the virus or a history of international travel, signaling the state's first case of community spread, according to Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton.

The man is currently at Mercy Medical Center and health officials have launched an investigation into his contacts since the onset of his illness on Feb. 25.

ODH has 24 tests currently pending and 21 people in Ohio have tested negative. 

Three Cuyahoga County residents tested positive for the virus earlier this week. The two men and one woman are in insolation at home and being monitored by health officials.

“We know we're going to have a couple tough months ahead. We know this disease is spreading in the United States. But we will get to the other side of that,” said Acton. “When I talk about what we can expect, we've got some hard months with social disruptions and things that we'll be doing increasingly to prevent the spread of this disease. But we know when we take these actions they make a difference.”

Gov. Mike DeWine issued a new public health order.

Nursing homes are ordered to allow only one visitor per resident per day and staff must take the temperature of anyone who enters the facility.

DeWine said he understands how important visits can be for nursing home residents.

"That socialization is important. So we're trying to balance this, but we also know that this is a particularly vulnerable population and we have to take rather dramatic steps to do all we can to protect them," said DeWine.

He said his office is crafting a public health order to bar spectators at large sporting events such as NHL and NBA games.

The NCAA decided, after DeWine's announcement, that it would allow only family members at the March Madness tournament games. This is a national decision, but also affects the games set in Dayton and Cleveland.

"There is a new, big, huge risk in Ohio. You never thought that it was coming, I never thought it was coming, but it is here. And you better calculate that risk just like you calculate everything else you do in your life," DeWine said, noting that each Ohioan needs to assess their own situation when deciding if they want to travel or meet with large groups.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish declared a state of emergency Wednesday.

“This will allow us to purchase mission critical supplies without going through our normal procurement process,” Budish said in a written statement. “I believe that this is crucial so that we can continue to react swiftly to what is a fast-moving situation.”

In an effort to keep the virus from spreading, the list of local events being canceled continued to grow Wednesday to include Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Cleveland International Film Festival.

“We will get through this,” said DeWine. “Ohioans are resilient people.”

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.