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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Ohio EPA Prohibits Water Shutoffs During Pandemic, State Reports 55 Deaths from COVID-19

slide of social distancing illustration
ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton used this graphic to illustrate the importance of continuing to practice social distancing.

The Ohio EPA has signed an order that prohibits water shutoffs across the state during the coronavirus pandemic. 
"This will help us assure that as many people as possible have safe water during the state of emergency," DeWine said.
The order will also allow residents to have water services reinstated if they've had it shut off since Jan. 1, 2020. Ohioans will have to reach out their providers to get their water turned back on. 

There are now 2,199 COVID-19 cases in Ohio and 55 deaths have been reported. Cases are in 71 of Ohio's 88 counties. More than 29,000 people have been tested. 

Although the numbers are rising, Dewine and Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, said social distancing and staying at home is helping slow down the spread of the disease. 

However, Acton said Ohioans need to double down and be even more strict with it. 

"This social distancing in its strictest form is essential," Acton said. "It's very important we minimize our exposure to others."

Acton said in previous press briefings that a surge in cases might happen as early as mid-April, and the state could see around 10,000 cases a day.

DeWine said he understands staying home and away from others can take a toll on someone's mental health.
Lori Criss, the director of the Ohio Department of Addiction and Mental Health Services, gave these tips:

  • Make a schedule (waking up, eating meals, etc.)
  • Have some leisure time
  • Create a space for work and school
  • If you live alone, reach out to friends or family
  • Offer help to neighbors
  • Check in on friends
  • Stay in touch with primary care physician, therapist or counselor
  • Give yourself a break
  • Call your recovery coach
  • Use online resources
  • Stay connected to support groups

"The opposite of addiction is connection," Criss said.
Among the many emotions Ohioans may be feeling, one of them is frustration. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said he's received complaints about Ohio's unemployment site being too slow and residents are having a hard time filing. 

"Your voices are being heard," Husted said. The site's capacity has been increased by 20 times its normal amount, and 180 people are being trained to help in the call center. 

DeWine said the state is already looking at ways to get Ohioans back to work once the pandemic lightens. 

JobsOhio will announce soon a $2 million long-term, low-interest loan for Appalachian Growth Capital (AGC). 

"AGC provides small business financing in the 32 Appalachian Counties of eastern and southern Ohio. It works with local and regional banks, as well as secondary lenders to support businesses in the region," DeWine said.

For right now, much of the focus is on hospital capacity and preparing for a surge in cases. Acton will issue an order Tuesday that will require hospitals to record what equipment they have and how much of each one, such as ventilators and N-95 masks. They must report it at coronavirus.ohio.gov/ventinventory every Wednesday by 5 p.m.

The order will also allow the state to secure more ventilators. 

DeWine and Acton said the most important part of this is for Ohioans to continue social distancing and comply with the stay-at-home order. 

"We've bought precious time," Acton said.

Many things have occurred in the state over the last few weeks regarding COVID-19. Among them: 

  • DeWine ordered all schools to remain closed until May 1. The initial order closed them for three weeks. 
  • Battelle Labs has begun its effort to help address the shortage of PPE. It has developed a way to sanitize up to 80,000 N95 masks per machine per day.  
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says over the last two weeks Ohio's unemployment compensation system has had two times as many applicants as it had over the past two years. 
  • Daycares closed at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, March 25 unless they secured a temporary pandemic childcare license from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. A limited number of temporary licenses were awarded and are intended to provide care for healthcare, emergency personnel, and other essential employees. 
  • DeWine has issued an order to freeze state government hiring as well as new contracts to save the state money. 
  • The state issued a stay-at-home order, which took effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 23. This means Ohioans must only leave their homes for essential needs like groceries, medicine or exercise. To view which businesses are open and closed, click here.
  • DeWine ordered centers forpeople with disabilities to close. Alternatives have been offered to those who need them. 
  • Public playgrounds have been ordered to close. 
  • Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor will beinviting local courts to apply for a share of $4 million in grant funding to help them acquire video conferencing technology to reduce the need for in-person trials and transactions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Ohio Medicaid will expandtelehealth services to get in contact with health professionals amid the outbreak. It'll include phone calls, FaceTime and smart phones.
  • Barbershops, hair and nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors were ordered to close at end of business Wednesday, March 18. 
  • More than 180 Bureau of Motor Vehicles locations have also been shut down. Five around the state will remain open to issue commercial driver's licenses. DeWine is asking the Ohio General Assembly to pass legislation that will grant a grace period for people who can’t renew licenses. He's also asking law enforcement, including State Highway Patrol, to not issue tickets for someone who has an expired license.
  • DeWine is asking all businesses, including nonprofits, manufacturers and retailers, to check each employee's temperature before the individual enters the workplace every day. If the person's temperature is elevated, they should be sent home. He's also encouraging employees to check their own temperature every day as a precaution. 
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has encouraged people to apply for unemployment benefits online. Requests have skyrocketed. The state is reducing the wait time to receive benefits to help those left without work suddenly due to coronavirus. Go to unemployment.ohio.gov to apply. He also asked small businesses who need financial relief to go to sba.gov/disaster
  • Hospitals are postponing elective surgeriesuntil further notice. The state issued the order Tuesday to conserve protective equipment for health care workers and keep beds open. Patients will receive a call if their surgery has been canceled. The Ohio Hospital Association also says that hospitals across the state are prepared for a 25% surge in COVID-19 cases if that happens. 
  • Ohio has postponed its primaries. Not even 12 hours before polls were supposed to open, Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health issued a health emergency to shut down polling locations. The new proposed voting date is June 2 but the details still have to be worked out by the courts and/or the state legislature. Absentee ballots would be allowed until then. For more information on what happened, click here.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted gave an update on unemployment requests. 78,000 requests have been filed. It was 6,500 two weeks ago. He also asked small businesses who need financial relief to go to sba.gov/disaster.  absentee ballot, click here.
  • The state has shut down more facilities, including gyms, fitness centers, recreation facilities, theaters, indoor water parks and indoor trampoline parks. 
  • University of Akron has decided to keep classes online for the rest of the semester. The school has also asked students toleave the residence halls by 11 p.m. Wednesday. 
  • Kent State employeehas tested negative for COVID-19 after coming into contact with a patient who has the disease. Students have been ordered to leave the residence halls by the end of the week and are eligible for a refund. The university has also announced it will start limiting operations at all eight campuses. 
  • Bars and restaurants closed down to prevent large gatherings. DeWine said he came to the decision after he received multiple complaints about crowds over the weekend. Carry-out and delivery options are still available. 
  • The state is implementing a COVID-19 treatment plan for individuals with an addiction or mental health issues. This includes more telehealth services that will allow patients to video chat with professionals or call a landline. The plan will also implement a service that will allow people to get their medications without having to physically go to a pharmacy. Pharmacies are making sure they have adequate supplies of medications
  • The Cleveland Clinic is officially offering drive-thru coronavirus testingwith a doctor's order. It's in partnership with University Hospitals, which is doing the same. The testing location is in University Circle.
  • Summit Countyconfirmed its first case of COVID-19. A woman in her 50s is a case of community spread, which means she didn't travel or have direct contact with other COVID-19 patients. The county and the city of Akron have declared public health emergencies. All community centers in Akron closed Monday.  
  • President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. This allows the White House to get direct aid quickly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disasters and health crises. Trump has also been tested for COVID-19 and doesn't have it.  
  • Lawmakers plan to send a letter to Trump with 17 requests for state relief, such as having access to more protective equipment for health care workers. 
  • DeWine issued an order that prohibits visitors in jails. The state also isn't allowing visitors in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and psychiatric facilities. 
  • Ohio K-12 schools shut down Monday afternoon for three weeks. DeWine said he will help schools with whatever they need, but it's up to administrators to figure out how to determine details of educating students while they're at home and when they return. 
  • Kent State University, Oberlin College and Ohio State University have canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. Classes will be online. Kent State has also postponed pre-commencement and commencement for spring. Many other schools are doing the same. 
  • Ohio has temporarily banned mass gatherings of 100 or more people together in close promiximity in a certain place. This includes parades, fairs, theaters and more.