Ohio hits record high of COVID-19 cases

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Governor Mike DeWine called on the public to keep wearing masks and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as Ohio moves through its most intense, widespread, and dangerous surge of cases.
        Ohio is currently facing a record number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and intensive care admissions, with nearly 3,000 people in the hospital, including more than 700 people in the ICU.
        “We are in the midst of our third wave in Ohio,” said DeWine. “In the spring, as the virus first surged, we shut things down. Ohioans did what they had to do. We flattened the curve, and we were able to open back up. In the summer, we got hit again. The virus was heaviest in our urban areas, and so some of our mayors and our Ohio Department of Health issued mask orders in these hot spots. Mask wearing in those areas went up dramatically -- and as a result, cases dropped dramatically. We are now seeing our third spike. But, this time, things are much different. We had been warned that when it got colder and drier and people were indoors more, the virus would rise up again. And it certainly has. This surge is much more intense, widespread, and dangerous. Every single one of our 88 counties has a high rate of virus spread, and areas of our state that were previously untouched -- our rural areas -- are being hit especially hard.”
Serious concerns
        During the first week of November alone, 104 Ohioans infected with the coronavirus died.
        “With this new wave of COVID-19, the onset of flu season, and an already-exhausted group of healthcare workers, there are serious concerns that there won’t be enough people to fully staff our healthcare facilities in the next few weeks,” said DeWine. “If we don’t change this, Ohio won’t be able to provide appropriate care for COVID patients or for Ohioans who require other emergency care for things like accidents, strokes, and heart attacks. Hospitals will again be forced to postpone important, but less urgent, care.”
        Although Ohio has nearly doubled its testing capacity, the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus has increased almost four times. At the end of September, Ohio averaged under 1,000 new cases per day. Last week, Ohio hit a record high of more than 6,500 new cases reported in a single 24-hour period.
        “As we wait for the vaccine, which could come as soon as December, we have so much to protect,” said DeWine. “What each Ohioan does in his or her own life impacts every citizen and every place we desperately want and need to keep open– our schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and businesses.”
        To reinforce the necessity of wearing masks and slowing the spread of the virus, DeWine announced a revised mask and social gathering order.  
Revised mask order
        Although most people and businesses have properly followed COVID-19 safety guidelines issued in Ohio’s July 23, 2020, mask order, others are not.
        To protect frontline workers and customers, the Ohio Department of Health will reissue Ohio’s mask order and add the following provisions:
        •Each store will be required to post a sign outlining face-covering requirements at all public entrances to the store;
        •Each store will be responsible for ensuring that customers and employees are wearing masks;
        •A new Retail Compliance Unit, comprised of agents led by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, will inspect to ensure compliance. A first violation will result in a written warning and a second violation will result in closure of the store for up to 24 hours.
        “We know that masks work. They are the easiest, most cost-effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
New social gathering order
        Ohio’s April order that limits public events and private gatherings of more than 10 people is still in effect, However, there has been rampant spread of the virus as a result of banquets, wedding receptions, and social gatherings following funerals.
        To address the tragedies that have resulted from such events, the Ohio Department of Health will issue an order that will place significant new restrictions on these social activities. Specifically, open congregate areas will no longer be permitted to open, and everyone will be required to be seated and masked unless they are actively consuming food or drinks.
        Bars, restaurants, and fitness centers may remain open, but this will be reassessed next week for potential closure. 
        “If the current trend continues and cases keep increasing, we will be forced to make these closures,” said DeWine. “I am very well aware of the burden this will place on employees and owners, but these are places where it is difficult or impossible to maintain mask-wearing, which we know now is the chief way of slowing this virus.”
        Toledo-Lucas County Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski, said the department receives complaints from retail employees that some customers are not wearing face masks.
        “They are being followed up on, but they are also sent to the state to show what is happening,” he said.
        “Enforcement is tough,” he said. “The state will come out and help us out once, but the second time they have to come out, there would be severe consequences for not wearing face coverings.”
        Zgodzinski strongly recommended that the public  stay home for the upcoming holidays.
        “We’re going to want to go out and do things – go shopping and be with family and friends. I caution everyone to really think about going to that party – to actually go out and visit family members. Really, stay in your family unit. Many of us will not do that. We will go to those large parties. But it’s taking a chance and possibly perpetuating the disease,” he said.
        “That big get-together I usually enjoy at Thanksgiving – the 30 to 40 family members and friends in someone’s house – is just not going to happen. Especially in Ohio, you’re taking a risk. If you are going to go out and do something that is risky like that, you should take precautions – like wearing face coverings and social distancing as much as possible. But I would steer away from it.”
        He said low risk activities include having a virtual dinner. Moderate risk includes having a small outdoor dinner. “It’s better to be outdoors than indoors. But you still have some risk with that.”
        He said the public should also avoid shopping in crowded stores. 
        “The day after Thanksgiving is a great day to go shopping, But again, I would stay away from that.”


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