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COVID-19 Cases Confirmed; DeWine Signs Emergency Declaration

The state has confirmed the first three cases of COVID-19, leading Governor Mike DeWine to sign a declaration of emergency. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.  

After weeks of following the headlines of a coronavirus outbreak in other countries and in the Pacific Northwest, Governor Mike DeWine delivered the news that the virus is now in Ohio.


"This afternoon we learned that three Ohioans have tested positive for COVID-19"


The three people who tested positive for COVID-19 are all from Cuyahoga County in their mid-50s.


There's a married couple, a man and a woman in their mid-50's, who recently returned from a Nile River Cruise.


The third person is an unrelated case. A man, also in his mid-50's, who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, DC.


DeWine says, with the official presence of the coronavirus, people around the state should expect to experience temporary changes.


"From what we see around the world and the United States, this disease will for a period, will for a period, significantly disrupt our lives."


Examples of disruptions in other states dealing with the coronavirus include school closures, universities requiring students to complete courses online, companies telling employees to work from home, and the cancelling of events involving large crowds.


A priority for the state is to prevent the spread of the virus and to inform people on how to limit exposure for those deemed to be vulnerable to COVID-19. They say delaying the spread of the virus can reduce the stress on medical facilities and their resources. High-risk people include people who are elderly, those with compromised immune systems or pre-existing conditions, and health care workers.


Ohio Department of Health Director, Dr. Amy Acton, says people who live with someone at high-risk should also be vigilant.


"When you are in a household with someone who's at risk, treat yourself as if you have the disease and take the same precautions and that's how we can protect our most vulnerable."


DeWine says Secretary of State Frank LaRose will roll out more information on how the state plans to prevent the spread of germs during March 17's primary election. For example, DeWine says the 75-plus polling locations set in nursing homes will be moved to a different location.


As for large events, such as Dayton and Cleveland's scheduled NCAA March Madness Tournament games? DeWine says a panel of health experts is analyzing different situations, including those games, adding that there was no announcement on that at this time.


"Look, we have to be cautious. This will changes people's lives for a while and the whole goal is to make sure Ohioans are safe and so we have to focus on that."


DeWine signed a declaration of emergency which allows the state to attain medical equipment and supplies quicker, without going through a bid process. He also canceled all nonessential travel by state employees and announced that the large Bureau of Workers' Compensation expo had been postponed.


"This is certainly no ordinary time. It's important for us to take aggressive action to protect Ohioans and the actions we take now will in fact save lives."


The three COVID-19 cases in Ohio were confirmed by tests conducted by the state, which just started its own testing this weekend.


Acton says the state is carrying out what's known as "contact tracing", where epidemiologists retrace the steps of people confirmed with COVID-19 to see who else might've been exposed to that person. The state will notify anyone who came into contact with someone who has COVID-19.



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