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Ohio Confirms 5th COVID-19 Case; Gatherings Of More Than 100 People Banned

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and a sign language interpreter announce the fifth COVID-19 case in Ohio and a temporary ban on gatherings of more than 100 people in the Buckeye State. [The Ohio Channel]
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and a sign language interpreter announce the fifth COVID-19 case in Ohio

Updated: 11:15 p.m., Thursday, March 12, 2020

Ohio has a fifth confirmed case of COVID-19, Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton announced Thursday afternoon.

At the same press conference, the governor announced sweeping statewide measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, including closing K-12 schools, banning large public events and closing nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals to visitors.

Acton said current estimates show the spread of the virus could peak by late April or mid-May. But until then, daily life in Northeast Ohio and beyond will be very different.

Fifth Coronavirus Case Confirmed

The 55-year-old Trumbull County man is being treated in the ICU at Mercy Health-St. Joseph Warren Hospital in Trumbull County, and did not go to work when he began developing symptoms, according to DeWine and Acton.

“These numbers are just going to continue to grow,” DeWine said. “We know that these confirmed numbers are only a small fraction of those who are infected in the state of Ohio. We are told by medical experts that whatever the number is today, it will double in six days and that just continues on and on and on.”

Three Cuyahoga County residents and a fourth person in Stark County tested positive for the virus this week, all four in their 50s.

Another 52 coronavirus tests from across the state are awaiting results. State labs are going to three shifts per day to keep up with demand for test results, Acton said, and more than 300 Ohioans are under public health supervision so far.

Events Of 100 Or More People Temporarily Banned

In an effort to stem the tide of coronavirus “community spread,” Acton signed a public health order prohibiting “mass gatherings” of 100 or more people are temporarily banned in Ohio.

The order includes parades, fairs, festivals and events that bring people together in auditoriums, conference facilities, theaters or “any other confined indoor or outdoor space.” It does not include

There are exceptions, such as mass transit stations, shopping malls, places of worship, and free speech events. But organizations need to take it upon themselves to decide if staying open is worth the risk of spreading the coronavirus, DeWine said.

The steady stream of event cancellations – which already included Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Cleveland International Film Festivalbecame a flood following the governor’s announcement.

Schools Closed Until April 3

All of Ohio’s K-12 students – in public, private and charter schools – will get “an extended spring break,” as the governor put it Thursday. Schools will close at the end of the day Monday and will remain shuttered until April 3.

“We know it’s disruptive,” the governor said. “But we have to do this.”

Children aren’t as adversely affected by the virus as some adults, DeWine said, but they can be carriers, so keeping them out of school buildings will lower the transmission rate.

“Look, we are going to get through this. We’ve got to go through this gauntlet. We’ve got to run this gauntlet. And we’ve got to get through this gauntlet without losing too many of us," DeWine said.

Schools will be open for Primary Day voting on Tuesday, and DeWine said the closure this does not apply to preschools and day cares. But he urged businesses to allow for the flexibility to work from home to accommodate working parents. DeWine’s own staff and much of the state government will also be working from home as much as possible, he said.

Most of Ohio’s colleges and universities, including those in Northeast Ohio, have already made plans to hold classes online for the rest of this month. At The Ohio State University, students living in dorms will be required to move out of their residence halls over the next week.

New Visitation Policies For Nursing Homes, Healthcare Facilties

The governor also issued a ban on visitors at Ohio nursing homes and in the state’s psychiatric hospitals.

Nursing homes requested the ban because of the vulnerability of elderly people and those with compromised immune systems to COVID-19, according to the governor.

“No one knows the safety of their patients better than the nursing homes themselves," Dewine said. "This will not last forever. This is temporary. Everything we’re doing is temporary. We’ll get back to normal in Ohio. It’s not going to be done overnight, but we will.”

Visitors are also banned at the state’s six psychiatric hospitals. Patients being admitted at those facilities or nursing homes will be screened for the virus first.

By midday Thursday, most Cleveland-area hospitals and healthcare systems also had revised their visitation policies.

Earlier this week, 128 polling places usally located in Ohio’s nursing homes and senior living facilities were ordered to be moved for Tuesday’s presidential primary, with provisions being made for residents who want to vote.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections announced Tuesday 36 polling locations are being relocated under the Ohio Secretary of State’s coronavirus criteria, impacting 47,841 registered voters.

Cuyahoga County voters can also check their polling location status on the  board of elections website or by calling 216-443-VOTE (8683).

Statehouse News Bureau reporters Jo Ingles, Andy Chow and Karen Kasler contributed to this report.