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DeWine Urges Hospitals To Save Protective Masks For Decontamination As Statewide COVID-19 Cases Rise

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during his April 8 coronavirus briefing. [The Ohio Channel]
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine during his April 8, 2020 coronavirus briefing.

Gov. Mike DeWine made a public plea to Ohio’s hospitals Wednesday, asking healthcare workers to save their N95 protective masks so they can be decontaminated.

Rather than discard masks after each use, Columbus-based research organization Battelle has developed a method of decontaminating protective devices, which are in critically short supply, so they can be reused.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Battelle emergency authorization to use the new technology during this crisis. Each machine can sterilize up to 80,000 N95 surgical masks per day.

“Every mask is precious,” DeWine said. “You’re denying somebody else a mask,” when masks are thrown away instead of recycled them, he said.

DeWine also announced a major gift of protective supplies — 100,000 N95 masks – from Apple Inc., saying he thanked Apple CEO Tim Cook personally on the phone last night while walking around his Greene County farm.

Ohio is also looking to get the equipment it needs by other means, the governor said, including trying to get a shipment in from China.

Prison Worker Dies

The death of a corrections officer at Marion Correctional Institution was also announced at the daily coronavirus briefing. DeWine said 55-year-old John Dawson, from Mansfield, tested positive for the coronavirus on March 30 and had an underlying health condition.

Dawson was the second officer to test positive for the virus in the Marion facility.

So far 48 Ohio prison staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, along with 17 inmates in what DeWine called “aggressive” testing happening in the state’s prisons.

“Mr. Dawson’s death reminds us that, as we celebrate the fact that Ohio is doing comparatively well, we are still seeing a large number of deaths,” DeWine said. “People are dying every single day.”

Dawson is just one of Ohio’s 193 deaths due to COVID-19, said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, and the numbers are still predicted to rise.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Ohio has 5,148 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Acton said, with 1,495 hospitalizations and 472 ICU admissions.


Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio


“More people went to the hospital. More people died than the day before,” said Lt. Governor John Husted. “And those aren’t models. Those are real people. Those are people with families, people with loved ones. And we deeply, deeply care about what happens to them — and that we know we are in a battle that has to be won.”

Unemployment and Childcare

Kimberly Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, said Wednesday that the state has already paid out $124 million in COVID-related unemployment claims to about 195,000 Ohioans.

The department’s primary goal right now, according to Hall, is staffing up to meet the unprecedented surge in claims. The unemployment call center is now open seven days a week, she said, and ODJFS is expected to have 1,000 people taking calls by April 10.

The department is responding with additional SNAP food assistance benefits, Hall said. And the state’s pandemic childcare program for essential workers has already enrolled nearly 27,000 children.