By John Seewer and Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Ohio has only two weeks before it will be slammed by a surge of coronavirus cases, and it’s critical now that the state add many more hospital beds. The Republican also signed Ohio’s first major piece of legislation in response to the pandemic. So far, at least 19 deaths in the state have been linked to the outbreak. A look at virus-related developments in Ohio on Friday:
New projections from the Cleveland Clinic suggest Ohio will be hit hard by a surge of cases in two weeks, and the peak of those could come in mid-May, DeWine said.
The focus now, he said, is to increase the number of hospital beds and equipment available. Ohio could see up to 10,000 cases per day at the peak and require two or three times the number of beds that are normally available, DeWine said.
“I don’t want anyone to be alarmed, but I also want everyone to understand what we face,” he said.
Among the options being considered for extra space are college dormitories, hotels and shuttered medical buildings.
“We’re going to really need to accelerate this,” DeWine said.
ACTION IN COLUMBUS
DeWine signed legislation that eliminates mandatory state testing for schools this year and extends the deadline for filing state income taxes to July 15.
It also keeps in place the current school voucher program known as EdChoice, which helps fund private school tuition for students from poor-performing districts. Before the outbreak, lawmakers had been considering changing the number of qualifying districts.
The legislation sets a timeline for the postponed primary election that will almost exclusively be mail-in voting through late April.
Voters who haven’t cast ballots yet will need to request an absentee ballot by mail or phone by April 25.
The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday signed off on dismissing a complaint from the Ohio Democratic Party, which had opposed DeWine’s initial plan to push the primary to early June.
Among the more than 1,100 cases now confirmed, about 280 people have been hospitalized, according to the state.
But the overall number falls well short of all of the cases in Ohio because the state is limiting testing to those who are hospitalized and to health care workers.
The ages of those who have died range from age 58 to 93, said Amy Acton, the state’s health director.
Four of those who have died were residents of two nursing homes where there was an outbreak in Miami County, the local health department said Friday.
For most people, COVID-19 displays mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can be more severe, causing pneumonia or death.
STATE OF STATE
DeWine postponed next week’s State of the State address, citing the need to maintain social distancing, and said it will be rescheduled after the state of emergency is over.
Bringing together lawmakers and other state officials would go against the administration’s message of minimizing contact with others, said the governor and Republican leaders in the House and Senate.
DeWine already announced freezes on state-government hiring and new contract services. He also told cabinet members to look for immediate budget cuts of up to 20%.
BURGERS AND TOILET PAPER
Cincinnati-based Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants has found a way to draw more customers. In addition to its signature Big Boy double-decker burgers, customers at its 100 restaurants in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky can buy bread, milk, produce and even toilet paper at its drive-thrus and carryout counters.
While some restaurateurs have down because of the bans on sit-down dining, others are transforming operations to stay open.
HEALTH DEPARTMENT SHUTTERED
The health department in Toledo closed temporarily and won’t reopen until early next week after two employees tested positive for the virus. Much of the staff with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department is now self-quarantining.
Acton said she didn’t know of any other county health departments that have been forced to shut down. But she said it wasn’t surprising because so many will get the virus, and there are contingency plans in place.
Many health department employees were upset that they have not been told which employees tested positive and worried they might have been exposed, the head of the union representing workers told The Blade.
Seewer reported from Toledo.
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