COLUMBUS, OH — When the new coronavirus, COVID-19, peaks in Ohio, there could be 6,000 to 8,000 new cases daily, Dr. Amy Acton, director of the state health department said Thursday. She said social distancing will buy officials time to plan for the surge in cases.
Gov. Mike DeWine has previously estimated the virus could hit its peak in Ohio around May 1. He again urged Ohioans to stay home and practice social distancing. Acton said testing limits may be masking how widespread the virus already is in Ohio.
"We are going to hit peak capacity in our hospitals, and the folks with COVID-19 will be staying longer, which is why we need to increase the capacity in our hospitals. Everything you are doing matters," Acton said, reminding Ohioans to stay home unless leaving is absolutely necessary.
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DeWine said he is working with hospital leaders to double patient capacity and to coordinate care for Ohioans. He also indicated changes are coming to Ohio's courts, giving judges more time to deal with cases — including evictions. Courts will be relieved of their duty to hear cases in an allotted period of time, DeWine said. Courts can also choose to stay any action, including evictions, during the COVID-19 crisis.
Ohioans who want to offer help, of any kind, to state officials can send an email to email@example.com, DeWine said. State officials are specifically looking for donations of personal protective equipment for first responders and medical staff.
As officials try to slow the spread of the virus, unemployment has risen to record levels. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said there has been an unprecedented uptick in unemployment claims and the surge has slowed the state's unemployment website and created long wait times for callers.
There were more than 187,000 unemployment claims over a one-week span in March, Husted said.
The lieutenant governor said Ohioans who have trouble accessing unemployment services will get benefits retroactively. He said staff are also trying to increase website and call center capacity to respond to more claims.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio continues to rise, officials announced Thursday afternoon. Fifteen Ohioans have died from the virus, the Ohio Department of Health said, an increase of five deaths since Wednesday.
There are at least 867 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, officials said Thursday. More than 90 Ohioans are in intensive care units because of the virus and 223 people have been hospitalized because of COVID-19.
State legislators and DeWine worked together to pass an omnibus bill on Wednesday to address the financial and social impacts of the virus.
Until the outbreak begins to slow, state officials must rely on social distancing protocols, DeWine said. Those protocols have led to record unemployment levels and sweeping changes to schools and daily life.
The key tenets of the new omnibus bill include:
- Absentee voting by mail will be extended until April 28 for the Ohio primary
- State testing will be waived for the 2019-2020 school year and students who were on track to graduate will be allowed to graduate
- EdChoice school buildings will be limited for the 2020-2021 school year
- Schools can use distance learning to make up for missed days or hours of instruction caused by statewide K-12 closures
- The state tax deadline is moved from April 15 to July 15
- State licenses will be valid for longer and Ohioans will have a 90-day period to renew their licenses
- Public bodies will be permitted to meet electronically, as long as the public can attend the meeting digitally
- Water shut-offs are prohibited during the COVID-19 crisis