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DeWine To Issue Order, Definitions For Elective Surgeries In Ohio

Ohio's Chief of the Bureau of Health Preparedness Tamara McBride describes the limited stores of personal protective equipment available for healthcare workers, as well as patient beds and ventilators, as the state prepares for a surge in COVID-19 cases. [The Ohio Channel]
Chief of the Bureau of Health Preparedness Tamara McBride at a podium

Updated: 8:50 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an order Tuesday postponing elective surgeries and procedures in Ohio hospitals for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order takes effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The latest order is an effort to address concerns about hospital beds and ventilators and to ensure there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to go around for healthcare professionals. Dentists and veterinarians are also holding off on procedures that are not absolutely necessary, the governor said, and are donating PPE to the coronavirus efforts.

Patients who have upcoming surgeries should not assume they fall into a certain category, and they should contact their physicians with questions, said Dr. Andy Thomas, who worked with state officials on the order and is the chief clinical officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Patients awaiting surgery should also expect a phone call from their medical teams soon, he said.

Ohio has received its full allocation from the national PPE stockpile, said Chief of the Bureau of Health Preparedness Tamara McBride.

“Conservation in this entire situation is paramount,” McBride said.

Acton noted the federal allocation of PPEs numbered in the “hundreds of thousands, not millions.” 

“These orders aren’t to police people, they’re meant to help people,” Acton said.

DeWine also defended his late Monday decision to cancel in-person voting for Ohio’s March 17 primary and to extend the voting period through June 2, as Ohio’s number of coronavirus cases climbed to 67 as of Tuesday afternoon.

“This is no ordinary time in Ohio. This is no ordinary time in the United States,” he said.

It would have been “wrong” to ask people to choose between risking their health and exercising their constitutional right to vote on Tuesday, DeWine said.

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye ruled Monday night against a temporary restraining order that would have delayed the primary, so DeWine closed the polls with a public health emergency order.

“It was a question of time,” DeWine said Tuesday afternoon. “Normally we would appeal, but we felt like we had to tell people by 10 o’clock.”

Discussions about how best to move forward with the primary are still ongoing, the governor said, and “as we move forward, there are very good solutions out there, either by the general assembly or by the courts.

“We are open, certainly, for discussion about how this gets worked out, but it’s really a simple thing to do,” he said. “I will insist on a significant amount of time so that people can vote.”

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