COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the state on Thursday regarding the coronavirus pandemic. He touched on a recent spike in cases, especially in southwest Ohio and in younger populations.
Increase in Cases
DeWine said Ohio has seen an increase of 892 cases of coronavirus on Thursday since the day before. This is the fourth highest day of new cases, he said.
DeWine made note that almost 60% these individuals range from 20 - 49 years old.
There have been 55 new hospitalizations since Wednesday and 11 ICU admissions. At this point, these numbers are just short of the 21-day average of 57 new hospitalizations and 13 new ICU admissions daily.
DeWine cautioned that when looking at these numbers, it is important to remember that the data is a few days behind. The data he showed Thursday was dated for June 23. The number of tests completed on that day were 17,091. DeWine said this is better, but still not where we want to be.
DeWine said that testing is key in fighting the coronavirus and combating its spread.
The positivity rate is holding at 5 and has generally stayed between 4 and 6, even with the recent increase in cases.
Dr. Richard P. Lofgren of UC Health in Hamilton County joined Thursday's presser to discuss the recent uptick in coronavirus cases in that region of the state. He said that up until this point, Hamilton County had done well at stopping the spread. However, in the last 10 days, the area has seen an increase in positive coronavirus cases.
When looking at case data in different regions, "R0" tells you the number of people an infected person will then go on to infect. If it is greater than one, Lofgren said, it indicates that the virus is spreading in your community.
At the peak of the pandemic, the R0 was 2.4 in Hamilton County. However, after residents began social distancing and adhering to state-issued safety guidelines, that number dropped to less than one. But, Lofgren said recently the R0 in Hamilton County has increased to 1.5, doubling over the last 10 days.
Lofgren made clear that his team does not believe this uptick is just due to more testing, he said it is being spread in southwest Ohio communities.
Lofgren said that at this point in time, we don't have the tools to eradicate the virus. This is something that communities across the
DeWine said the average age of those infected in March, the age was 51. So far in June, that average age has dropped to 42.
Month to month, that average age of infected individuals has continued to drop.
Lofgren made note that throughout April in May, just about 10% of young people between the ages of 20-30 were testing positive. Then, in June, the rate of positive tests went down. Lofgren said this is the type of result you would generally get from increased testing, as more people without symptoms get tested you'd expect the number of positive results to go down.
However, in the late part of June, that number has begun to increase again, with 14% of tests conducted on people aged 20-30 yielding a positive result.
However in the age group of 60-70, in the early part of April, there was a positivity rate of about 12%, dropping in May as testing increased.
Lofgren said that a concern among health professionals about young people being infected, is that they do run the risk of infecting individuals who are at a higher risk of complications from the virus. He also said it should still be recognized, that even though many people come out of the virus with mild or even no symptoms, there are others that experience long-lasting effects, like decreased lung function, saying it is not a benign disease.
Lofgren did say, however, that he believes we can continue on with our lives, despite the virus, but that Ohioans should stay vigilant, stay socially distant, wash hands and wear masks when in public.
More than a dozen states have already mandated the use of masks to combat the spread of coronavirus. When asked if this could be in Ohio's future due to the recent spike, DeWine explained that he will be working with individual communities rather than issuing a blanket state order.
DeWine said the plan is to speak with leaders to figure out the best way to solve the issue for that specific county, including a plan to funnel more testing to those hot spots.
When asked to clarify if certain municipalities could then see a mask order, DeWine said he hoped it didn't get to that point but he would not be ruling anything out. He made it clear, that either way, it would not be a unilateral decision.
DeWine said that school guidelines will most likely be released during Tuesday's scheduled press conference.
Ultimately, there will be a lot of flexibility for school districts to make decisions that are best for their unique situations.
He said they are trying to be careful, but know the importance of getting that information out.
Public Confidence and the Economy
DeWine said that if the state's economy is to continue recovering, the public needs to be confident as they return to work and visit businesses.
One way DeWine's team is working on this, is through increased testing. Restrictions last week were loosened so that anyone who wants a test in Ohio can get one.
DeWine demonstrated how testing works by having members of the National Guard come in and administer a test on himself, as well as his wife, Fran DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
The National Guard has been conducting these tests extensively through long-term care facilities, testing all staff and a select residents.
Guardsmen have also branched out to test members of the private sector at pop-up testing sites throughout the state. Results come back within 24-48 hours.
For more information on testing sites in your area, click here.
DeWine also stated that a big part of how confident people feel moving forward and how the state's economy recovers is what Ohioans do in their every day lives. Three 15-second ads were released Tuesday encouraging Ohioans to wear a mask when visiting local businesses and make smart choices as the state continues to reopen.
DeWine noted that Ohio is in good shape, but has seen a slight uptick in cases as of late. This is something his team is monitoring.
Vandalism at the Statehouse
DeWine addressed vandalism that occurred on the outside of the statehouse just a few days ago.
He stated that there were not enough Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers to deal with the incident, but moving forward, they would be properly staffed.
DeWine said that the vast majority of people demonstrating are doing so peacefully. However, he said there is a small number of people who are there for violence, and that will not be tolerated.
He said that demonstrations are positive things and people have every right to do so. However, when it reaches the point of violence, he said it is not acceptable.
DeWine addressed small business owners who have been impacted by vandalism and expressed great sadness. He said that his instructions to OSHP whenever there is vandalism or illegal activity is to investigate and seek prosecution against any case they have.
To all protesters, DeWine asked that masks be worn and social distancing is followed as the coronavirus is still out there. It is important, he said, that everyone do their part to help combat the spread of the virus while still exercising their first amendment right.
DeWine reiterated his guidelines for police reform, saying his aspirations include having every officer equipped with body cameras and a uniform use of force policy statewide.
He noted, however, that when police are dealing with demonstrations and there are some people there "under the guise of protesting" who get in the way of getting the message across by inciting violence, it is difficult for them to make decisions in a public environment. How do they allow protests to continue and protect protesters, while also protecting businesses from being destroyed and other people from getting hurt.
"These are not easy situations to be in," DeWine said.
Fourth of July
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted noted that as we move toward Independence Day, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
When it comes to fireworks, a number of local governments have already canceled their demonstrations. However, fireworks shows in and of themselves are not prohibited. The issue that comes into play is large crowds.
The large gathering ban is still in place in an effort to keep people safe, Husted said. He encouraged people to celebrate safely and watch from their porches or cars or within their immediate family.
Gathering Ban to Expire
The current large gathering ban, limiting groups to 10 or less, is set to expire next week. DeWine said his team is already looking at what to do moving forward.
The key to this, he said, is distance.
He said they will continue to move out and move forward, but currently is unsure exactly what that new order will be.
During COVID-19, there has been a sharp decline of children who have come into receive vaccinations.
Dr. Sara M. Bode, M.D. with Nationwide Children's Hospital said that this drop is concerning as vaccines are critical in preventing diseases in outbreaks. What medical professionals want parents to know, is that pediatric offices are open and safe. These spaces have been working under a number of safety guidelines to keep people healthy.
However, professionals are working to get creative and many are working with schools to help parents get their children caught up on vaccinations as we head into summer and prepare for school in the fall.
Nursing Home Visitation
DeWine said that there has been nothing more heartbreaking to him than to have families unable to visit their loved ones. He has received a number of letters and e-mails regarding the issue and knows how difficult this is for those impacted by the current limitations.
However, he said his team is trying to balance the safety of everyone in those nursing homes with the real need for Ohioans to see their loved ones in person.
DeWine said that around 70% of the people the state has lost due to coronavirus have been in congregate care settings. He said testing is ramping up in these facilities and more announcements are on the way sometime next week.
DeWine also made note that they have already started with assisted living facilities, with families able to schedule outdoor visitation. His team will be monitoring the success of this move as well.
At the beginning of May, leaders announced Phase 1 of the reopening plan for athletics in the state.
On May 26, athletes were able to begin skills training.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Thursday that Phase 2 involves reopening contact practice for all sports. Football, lacrosse and other contact sports can resume scrimmages and full training as long as safety protocols are observed beginning June 22.
Husted noted that while June 22 is the date that contact practice is allowed to begin, it will be up to local sports organizers and high school leaders on when it is the best time to proceed.
Training guidance will be updated soon on coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Spike in Southwest Ohio
A number of counties in southwest Ohio have seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
DeWine said the National Guard would be stepping in to help increase testing in the zip codes that are considered hot spots and that residents could expect to see a number of pop-up testing sites in order to combat further spread of the virus.
The goal is to have temporary testing sites set up in the impacted zip codes within the next 10 days to provide surge testing for these areas.
DeWine said that when it comes to combating the virus in these areas, orders would only be issued as a last resort.
Earlier this week, DeWine announced that testing capacity in the state had greatly expanded, with any Ohioan who wants a test now able to get one.
For more information on pop-up and community testing sites, click here.
Children and COVID-19
Dr. Amy Edwards, M.D. explained that children are nowhere near as impacted as the elderly when hit comes to coronavirus. However, she said doctors are seeing an increase of children testing positive for COVID-19.
While they are increasing testing, she said that overall, the percentage of positive tests in children is now higher than it was earlier in the pandemic.
Edwards also said there has been a slight uptick in hospital admissions in children related to coronavirus.
But, what should parents look for? How should they react?
Edwards said that they symptoms are similar in children as they are in adults. As a respiratory virus, you will see cough, shortness of breath, maybe a runny nose, etc. And if these symptoms are mild and manageable, you may not need to do anything at all. However, if your child is having a bit more trouble breathing than they normally do or if they are struggling with their appetite, you may want to reach out to your pediatrician to get tested.
While there has been an increase in coronavirus, Edwards said that there has also been an increase in children suffering from an inflammatory syndrome that parents should be aware of. Symptoms of that syndrome include high fever and GI symptoms like nausea, vomiting, etc. as well as rashes and red eyes.
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