As of The Gazette’s Wednesday print deadline, four people in Ohio have tested positive for COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, prompting state and local officials to take precautions to prevent its spread.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has confirmed the coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
“People at higher risk of severe illness – including older adults, people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, and people with weakened immune systems – should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where they will be in close contact with others,” states the Delaware General Health District in a release issued Tuesday.
Attending mass gatherings, such as indoor sporting events, is being discouraged by Gov. Mike DeWine. Tickets for Ohio High School Athletic Association tournaments will be voided and resold to four family members of each participant.
“We are following the governor’s instructions and are doing this for the safety of Ohioans,” said Jerry Snodgrass, OHSAA executive director, in a release issued Tuesday night. “This is a very difficult time, and we need our schools and fans to know that we have been told we must do this. We must pull together to do the best we can to conduct these tournaments so that the student-athletes can still finish their seasons, which have gotten them to the pinnacle of their sport.”
In addition, many universities, including Ohio State, Ohio Wesleyan and Otterbein, will go from in-person classes to online classes through March. There are also restrictions on international travel for higher education staff.
As for K-12 schools, Delaware City Schools issued the following statement Wednesday: “At this time, it has not been recommended for K-12 schools to close, but we know this situation is fluid and we are planning for all scenarios. Our DCS staff will be using the inservice day on Monday, March 16, to discuss and plan for how instruction would look if an extended closure becomes necessary. We are also following the governor’s recommendations on mass gatherings and evaluating each of our events with our local health department to determine what adjustments may be necessary.”
Individuals who have recently returned from visiting China, Iran, Italy or South Korea, are being advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stay home for 14 days. These individuals are also being advised to take their temperature twice daily, keep their distance from others (about 6 feet), limit social activity, and call ahead to a doctor or emergency room if they are running a fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), have a cough, and have trouble breathing.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday officially called the coronavirus a pandemic. A pandemic is a worldwide epidemic. An epidemic is a sudden outbreak in a region.
According to statistics provided by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, there were 122,399 total confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, with 4,550 deaths and 66,301 recoveries.
The first reported case of coronavirus in the United States was discovered in late January, The New York Times reports. There are currently more than 1,000 cases in the country, with people testing positive for the virus in 37 states and Washington, D.C., and at least 31 deaths.
Hygiene can help prevent the spread of the virus, said the DGHD’s Preventative Health Division Disease Control and Response Team. Disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces with household cleaners, wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cover coughs and sneezes with one’s elbow, stay home and rest if feeling ill, avoid exposure to others who are sick, avoid touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, get enough sleep, and eat well-balanced meals for a healthy immune system.
The DGHD is also asking people not to buy face masks because “those items are needed for medical professionals. They need a large supply of masks, because they are in direct contact with infected patients and must change their masks repeatedly. Preserving masks for our healthcare workers, EMS and caretakers of ill persons is critical. They need to stay healthy to be there for all of us when we need them.”
“As the COVID-19 situation evolves, the Ohio Department of Health, working in conjunction with hospitals, primary care providers, and other health care experts, has a plan to maximize our testing resources,” Gov. DeWine said. “We are prioritizing the patients who are the most vulnerable to be tested in the Department of Health’s State Laboratory while ensuring those that need COVID-19 testing will be able to be tested.”
For more information, the ODH has a call center open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. this week to answer coronavirus questions at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-4-ASK-ODH).
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.