COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three Ohioans have tested positive for COVID-19 and Gov. Mike DeWine has declared a state of emergency for the state.
The governor said that all three of the people are their 50s and are from Cuyahoga County.
Two of the Ohioans with coronavirus are a married couple who were on a cruise on the Nile River. Of that couple, one person was hospitalized and one was not.
The third Ohioan who tested positive attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C. The third person is not related to the first two. That conference also had other people who tested positive for the coronavirus.
The three who tested positive, as well as six close contacts to the patients, have been quarantined at home.
Additionally, the Ohio Department of Health says eight people in the state are being tested for possible exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus as of March 9.
The state of emergency is a "legal necessity" that lets state departments and agencies to better coordinate their response, the governor said. It allows Ohio to purchase health-related items without a bid. DeWine urged people to not "read too much" into the state of emergency, as it is what is necessary to get needed medical products quickly.
With Ohio's primary election looming next week, the presence of the virus in the state is also affecting polling locations. DeWine said that 75 polling locations were supposed to be held in nursing homes, but those will be moved to other locations. The state also regularly uses schools as polling locations and the governor said elections officials will revisit whether to relocate those as well.
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Though it hasn't been deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ohio Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton described COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Acton also advised appropriate caution when visiting people in nursing homes, who are more prone to contracting COVID-19.
"We don't want you visiting your loved ones in a nursing home if you are sick," she said.
According to the state health department's website, the people under investigation (PUI) exhibited symptoms of respiratory illness and, within 14 days of symptoms starting, either traveled to China or been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19.
The Ohio Department of Health has tested 11 other people and the results came back negative.
According to the CDC, there are more than 160 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of March 7. Those with questions or concerns regarding the coronavirus in Ohio are asked to contact the department of health at 1-833-4ASKODH (1-833-427-5634).