COLUMBUS —Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, and Dr. Amy Acton provided the following updates on Ohio’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic last week.
Elective surgery order
Dr. Acton announced on Wednesday an order that directs healthcare providers in hospitals and outpatient surgery centers to reassess procedures and surgeries that were postponed.
On March 17, Dr. Acton issued an order postponing elective surgeries to conserve critical personal protective equipment (PPE) and to open bed space needed to care for COVID-19 patients.
“Because of Ohio’s hard work to flatten the curve and because of our health care system’s efforts to come together to meet community needs as a team, we have prevented the massive spike of cases that we feared,” said Governor DeWine. “We must now begin the gradual, multi-phased process of reopening, and my first concern is the patients who have had procedures and surgeries delayed.”
The new order directs healthcare professionals to review any postponed procedures or surgeries with their patients. Doctors and patients should consider the current health situations and make a joint decision about whether or not to proceed. New or other chronic conditions that may have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life should also be evaluated.
The order also requires that patients be informed of the risk of contracting COVID-19 and the impact during the post-operative recovery process.
“Resuming elective surgeries and procedures will take clinical judgment, and we will rely on our healthcare providers to make responsible decisions as we move forward,” said Governor DeWine. “Patients must have the information necessary to make informed decisions and must pay greater attention to the effectiveness of non-surgical options.”
Mental health careline
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) announced the launch of a new mental health COVID CareLine for Ohioans. Trained staff will be available to provide emotional assistance to anyone struggling with mental health concerns due to the ongoing stress of the pandemic.
The number to call is 1-800-720-9616. All calls will be confidential.
FDA reagent approval
Governor DeWine announced Tuesday that a new testing reagent, which is a compound used to determine if COVID-19 is present in a sample, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Because reagents have been extremely limited, Ohio and other states have had limited testing capacity. On Sunday, Governor DeWine spoke with officials at the FDA and asked them to approve new types of reagents to allow Ohio to expand testing. Today, the FDA approved a new version reagent for Thermo Fisher’s testing machines, which are used by most major labs in Ohio.
“This approval will greatly expand our state’s ability to increase our testing capacity,” said Governor DeWine. “We are also working with other companies to make additional reagent kits available so we can continue to ramp up testing in Ohio.”
Testing strike team
Governor DeWine announced the formation a new strike team led by former Ohio governors Richard Celeste and Bob Taft that will work to find more reliable sources of reagent and testing supplies for COVID-19 testing in Ohio.
“I am so pleased that Governor Celeste and Governor Taft have answered this call to help Ohio and did so without a moment’s hesitation,” said Governor DeWine. “I am so grateful that they have agreed to partner together and use their networks, contacts, and life experiences to help us in the critical mission to get testing supplies.”
The new Testing Strike Team will also include other leaders from business, academia, and public health to help Ohio source these testing reagents and supplies.
County fair waiver
Governor DeWine announced today that the Ohio Department of Agriculture has waived the required $50,000 local match for the Agricultural Society Facilities Grant Program.
Ohio’s operating budget set aside this grant funding to help fairs make necessary facilities and grounds improvements. Fairs could apply for the $50,000 grant with a required $50,000 from local governments and businesses.
“COVID-19 has put a strain on local budgets and businesses’ bottom lines, so this waiver will allow fairs to apply for grant funding for improvements without the local match,” said Governor DeWine. “Going forward, we will continue to evaluate how, and if, we can safely operate Ohio fairs in 2020.”
Fair managers have until May 30 to apply via the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website.
JOBSOHIO banking partnership
JobsOhio, Peoples Bank (headquartered in Marietta) and the recently-merged First Federal Bank and Home Savings Bank (headquartered in Defiance and Youngstown) announced a new partnership to support those banks’ existing small business clients in Ohio.
The partnership will help small businesses maintain operations and payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. JobsOhio has committed up to $50 million to assist Peoples Bank and First Federal-Home Savings Bank.
“This assistance bolsters each bank’s ability to provide additional financing on favorable terms for local businesses in good standing that would otherwise not be able to access this credit due to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Governor DeWine. “I thank these Ohio banks and JobsOhio for their partnership, which will get much-needed capital in the hands of small businesses that are so critical to Ohio’s economy.”
Eligible businesses can use the loans for working capital, including payroll, rent, mortgages or other fixed debts, utilities, and other bills.
BWC dividend checks
Less than two weeks ago, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation board of directors approved to send up to $1.6 billion in dividends to Ohio employers. Today, Governor DeWine announced that a total of more than 170,000 checks will be mailed over the next five days.
This dividend is intended to ease the impact of COVID-19 on Ohio’s business community and the economy. The dividend equals approximately 100 percent of the premiums paid in policy year 2018.
Approximately $1.4 billion will go to private employers and nearly $200 million will go to local government taxing districts, such as counties, cities, townships, and schools.
Minority health strike force
Because COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting minority groups in Ohio and across the country, Governor DeWine announced today that he has formed a new Minority Health Strike Force.
According to data from the Ohio Department of Health, 21 percent of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ohio are African American, although they only make up approximately 14 percent of Ohio’s population.
“We must recognize that there are many Ohioans who have an increased risk of being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and we must do everything we can to protect all Ohioans from this pandemic,” said Governor DeWine.
A list of individuals serving on the Minority Health Strike Force can be found here.
Nursing home/hospital data collection
In addition to comprehensive data already published on coronavirus.ohio.gov, Governor DeWine announced today that he has directed the Ohio Department of Health to collect more specific information regarding cases of COVID-19 in Ohio nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals.
In regard to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, this data will include COVID-19 cases broken down by the number of residents and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 at nursing homes and assisted living facilities listed by facility and county. Data will be posted to coronavirus.ohio.gov every Wednesday.
While balancing transparency and individual privacy rights, Ohio will also begin reporting aggregate death data for nursing homes and assisted living facilities at the county level. Because Ohio’s reporting module must be modified to accurately collect this information, this data will likely begin to be reported next week.
Additionally, because Ohioans are concerned about how COVID-19 is impacting hospitals and other healthcare facilities, Governor DeWine directed the Department of Health to modify the Ohio Disease Reporting System to accurately collect case information for direct care providers at hospitals who have tested positive for COVID-19. The data, which will be available soon on coronavirus.ohio.gov, will be listed by each hospital.
Private lab testing
The Ohio Department of Health had previously issued an order prohibiting hospitals from sending COVID-19 testing samples to private labs due to slow turnaround time.
Governor DeWine announced Monday LabCorp and Quest currently have no backlog of samples and have added more testing capacity. In response to the private laboratories’ improved turnaround times, the Ohio Department of Health will again allow hospitals to utilize commercial laboratories in addition to hospital laboratories performing COVID-19 testing.
The Ohio Department of Health will continue to monitor the turnaround times for all laboratories including commercial laboratories to make sure those who have been tested get results as quickly as possible.
Current Ohio data (as of Wednesday, April 22)
There are 14,177 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 584 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. A total of 2,882 people have been hospitalized, including 880 admissions to intensive care units. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Current Preble County data (as of Wednesday, April 22)
There are a total of 26 reported cases (13 confirmed, 13 probable), and one death. Preble County Public Health reported 24 recovered cases.