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Ohio Coronavirus Update: State 'fully intends' for schools to return in the fall

DeWine also announced Tuesday that health providers could resume any procedures that had been postponed.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Tuesday, June 2, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine provided updates on the state's school districts and health procedures that, up until this point, have been postponed.

TUESDAY

SCHOOL

DeWine said that the state fully intends for schools to return in the fall. However, the decision about when school starts is solely within that district's jurisdiction.

DeWine said that his team is working on a set of broad health guidelines for schools to follow.

The caveat, DeWine said, is that we still don't know exactly where this virus is going. 

The goal, however, is to have kids back in the classroom as much as possible. School leaders will have a lot of flexibility to create plans that work best for their schools' unique situations.

DeWine said that many superintendents at the schools he has talked to have been coming up with different alternatives in case a second wave were to hit the state.

SURGERIES

Healthcare providers may resume all procedures that were previously delayed. The guidelines for moving forward with these surgeries are as follows:

  • Maintaining adequate inventories of PPE, supplies, equipment, and medicine
  • Creating a plan for conservation and monitoring use of PPE, other supplies and equipment that could include decontamination and reuse
  • Maintaining a reliable supply chain to support their non-coronavirus cases and to respond to an unexpected surge in COVID-19 cases if needed.
  • Defining processes for timely testing of patients and staff
  • Using telehealth whenever possible

Disparity Across Ohio

DeWine noted that in his inaugural address, he laid out the values that would guide his administration - the values and principles that serve as the foundation for all of our policy decisions. 

DeWine said that “everyone - no matter where they were born or who their parents are - deserves the chance to succeed, to get a good-paying job, to raise a family comfortably, and to be secure in their future.”

He also noted that five minutes of taking his oath of office, he signed an Executive Order implementing policies against anti-discrimination in state government. 

"Our government exists to protect people so they can live flourishing lives and achieve their dreams, with its fundamental purpose - as our own Ohio Constitution of 1803 states - 'to establish justice, promote the welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty' for all," DeWine said.

He said the essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable among us. Despite many good efforts over the years, DeWine said, too many Ohioans are living in the shadows of opportunity; too many Ohioans are living at the margins. 

"There is racism in Ohio. There is inequity in Ohio. There are both economic and health disparities in Ohio," he said. "I am the governor for all the people of Ohio. And it is my job is to serve all the people of Ohio."

DeWine said it was his job to defend the defenseless, to bring people together, to seek out many opinions and ideas, and to find solutions to the problems that are holding Ohioans back.

"I am seeking dialogue to solve these problems. I am seeking strategies for the implementation of reforms. And, I am seeking real answers to the real problems of the structural impediments to equality in the State of Ohio," he said.

The Minority Health Strike Force, DeWine said, will continue COVID-19 testing for vulnerable populations, which the Ohio National Guard will play a role in.

The move is an effort to bring access to testing to underserved populations in all areas of Ohio.

The strike force will announce further plans to combat racial disparities in healthcare later in June.

Protests and COVID-19

Dr. Amy Acton said there is a concern for a rise in cases as more people get out to protest across the country to speak out against racial injustice following the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

Acton encouraged people to speak for their cause, and reminded Ohioans that first amendment rights have never been prohibited, but urged people to protest safely. 

She said we won't know what impact these mass gatherings may have on the virus for another few weeks. 

DeWine said that his team is continuing to monitor these numbers and will take whatever measures are necessary to protect public health, but he doesn't intend to enact any new orders.

Ohio National Guard

The Ohio National Guard has a number of members working in nursing homes conducting coronavirus tests. 

A guard representative said that Ohio's National Guard are testing all staff possible and select residents. When testing is complete, an aftercare team will head into each facility to determine the best way to manage the virus, it is there, or how to keep it out, if it isn't present.

Members of the National Guard are also working in food banks.

When Other Businesses Will Reopen

DeWine said information on museums, zoos and amusement parks will come Thursday.

He said guidelines have been created to keep people safe, including how to keep people distanced in these sectors. 

New programs:

  • PPE Retooling and Reshoring Grant Program - $20 million is set aside for small and medium-sized manufacturers to retool existing facilities to make PPE reshore production in Ohio. Eligible manufacturers could be awarded grants up to $500,000 per facility. Twenty percent of this funding is set aside for small businesses with less than 25 employees.
  • Ohio Micro-Enterprise Grant Program - This initiative will help small minority- and women-owned businesses through the current crisis and set them up to thrive in the future. Each qualifying business would receive $10,000 until funding runs out, and grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The program could fund up to 500 companies.
  • Appalachian Growth Capital Loan Program - The program will provide $10 million to help small businesses throughout Ohio's 32-county Appalachian region impacted by COVID-19. Many of these small businesses, Husted said, are important to the health and success of the economy in these areas. The program will offer loans to small businesses for up to $500,000 at 2% interest. 

For more information on these programs for small businesses, go to coronavirus.ohio.gov/businesshelp and click on business not-for-profit support tab.

Pandemic EBT

For many children, school is a major source of food. While in-person learning has been put on hold, some families have struggled to get access to hot meals.

In response, Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine announced a new federal program for families to receive money for those meals they may have missed due to the pandemic.

A pre-loaded pandemic EBT card will be sent through the mail for eligible families not already receiving SNAP benefits to be used at their local grocery stores. Those who are on SNAP benefits will receive those funds on the card they already have.

Eligible Ohio families will receive $5.70 per child for each day a school was closed due to COVID-19. Children eligible for free and reduced-price meals as of March will receive a total of $302.10. Children that became eligible for free and reduced-price meals in April will receive $239.40.

Families can use P-EBT as well as grab-and-go meal sites to meet their children’s food needs.

Using P-EBT does not impact you or your child's immigration status. The public charge rule does not apply to P-EBT funds.

You will receive P-EBT funds if your child(ren) were in grades K-12 in the 2019-2020 school year and:

  • Received free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program OR
  • Attended a school where every student gets free meals

Look for a letter in the mail from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) by mid-June.

If you think your family qualifies, but you do not get a letter by mid-June, call ODJFS at 1-866-244-0071.

This program happens automatically, there is no need to apply.

For more information, click here.

RELATED: Cedar Fair outlines new safety protocols amid coronavirus: What Cedar Point guests can expect when the park reopens

RELATED: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to address Cedar Point, other amusement parks, zoos next week

LAST WEEK

Testing

DeWine said that on Wednesday, the Board of Pharmacy released guidance clarifying HHS rules, allowing pharmacists to order and administer tests for COVID-19.

DeWine said he is working aggressively with the Ohio Pharmacists Association and state pharmacies to make sure tests are available.

A map has been added to the coronavirus.ohio.gov website that identifies testing sites throughout the state and provides links to community health centers and information on how Ohioans can schedule a test.

Long-term Care Facilities

DeWine noted that Ohioans have gone on several months without being able to visit loved ones living in long-term care facilities.

On Thursday, he announced a several-stage approach to begin allowing visitations, as state leaders continue to monitor the virus.

Beginning June 8, intermediate care facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities and assisted living facilities that are properly prepared can begin to allow outside visitation.

DeWine said the decision to move forward with outdoor visitation is the culmination of several things including: 

  • The impact on the quality of life a prolonged loss of connection can have on an individual.  
  • Requests from families and residents.
  • Consultation with advocates and providers

The guidelines for visitation were jointly developed by the Academy for Senior Health Sciences, LeadingAge Ohio, the Ohio Assisted Living Association, the Ohio Health Care Association and the Ohio Medical Director's Association.

Facilities have flexibility but are asked to do a number of things including: 

  • Develop a policy including taking temperatures and screening for symptoms of vistitors
  • Proper social distancing and masks
  • Setting specific hours and length of time of visits
  • Educating residents and families on COVID-19.

Each facility will be able to determine how to best utilize outdoor visitation in a way that works for them.

County Fairs

DeWine said that state leaders assembled a task force to look at how to proceed with junior fairs over the summer.

The group, he said, has come up with guidelines with how fair boards can work with local health departments to provide a safe outlet for kids to participate in a number of yearly activities.

The guidelines have been released on the ohio.coronavirus.gov website and focus on:

  • Social distancing
  • Limiting crowds
  • Ensuring the health of those involved
  • Animal care and welfare

DeWine said that decisions about county and independent fairs need to be made locally, as each event is unique. Each one faces a different financial situation and grounds are laid out differently.

He recognized that conditions may change over the summer, however all fair boards are asked to comply with current health department guidelines and guidelines that are already in place for other sectors. DeWine used food service as an example.

The Dept. of Agriculture is in the process of distributing all state funding available for our 94 county and independent fairs.

RELATED: Ohio Coronavirus Update: Outside visitation to begin in intermediate care facilities June 8