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Coronavirus In Ohio: State Confirms First Death From COVID-19

Gov. Mike DeWine inside the Governor's Residence in Columbus on Dec. 13, 2019.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Gov. Mike DeWine inside the Governor's Residence in Columbus on Dec. 13, 2019.

The first coronavirus death has been confirmed in Ohio.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that Mark Wagoner, Sr. is the first person to die from COVID-19 in Ohio. Wagoner had recently traveled to California.

"We have now entered a new phase in our battle against the coronavirus," DeWine said.

Both DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said they personally knew Wagoner, 76, a prominent Toledo attorney who was involved with the Ohio Republican Party.

"Mick Wagoner was a friend," Husted said at Friday's press conference. "I had appointed him to the Board of Elections when I was Secretary of State."

According to the Toledo Blade, Wagoner checked into St. Luke's Hospital on March 13 with respiratory symptoms.

"Our Dad gave his all for his family, his community, his clients, and his colleagues," said his son Mark Wagoner, the chair of the Lucas County GOP, in a Facebook post Thursday. "He had a boundless ability to love and always looked for the best in everyone he met. And he was funny, always quick with a joke and a reminder to never take ourselves too seriously."

There are now 169 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 28 counties, up from 119 cases yesterday. Of those, 39 people have been hospitalized. Cuyahoga County reports the most cases, with 69. Franklin County has 14, Butler has 12, and Summit and Lorain have 10 each.

Referencing Psalm 23, DeWine said that "for a while, it's going to seem like we're living in the valley of death." Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton says the death toll will likely rise.

The governor on Friday referenced more measures the state could take to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but says his administration isn't ready to enact. The most drastic of those would be closing all non-essential businesses, which both New York and Pennsylvania have done. DeWine did say he's hearing about businesses acting "recklessly" with the health of their employees, and threatened to issue more shutdown orders if he deems it necessary.

"I will err on the side of protecting people," DeWine said.

DeWine also says the state won't yet be closing daycares, something he's consistently talked about, but mentioned that enrollment numbers have been declining.

One executive order that DeWine will sign Friday: shutting down Ohio's senior citizen centers and older adult day care facilities at the close of business Monday. However, the governor says that food services may continue to be delivered to homes, and urges centers to help meet transportation and other needs however possible.

In addition, Husted says the Ohio Department of Insurance will order a grace period for health insurance premiums, interest-free for up to 60 days. Employers will also be required to continue covering health insurance for employees, even if they would become ineligible due to a decrease in the number of hours worked.

The Ohio Department of Health makes the following recommendations to protect yourself from illness:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.

Ohio's coronavirus call center is open to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634. More information is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

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Gabe Rosenberg