Ohio at ‘critical point’ in crisis

Governor implores Ohioans to wear masks in Wednesday evening speech

R-H Staff

COLUMBUS — On Wednesday, July 15, Governor Mike DeWine held a rare evening statewide address, not announcing any new orders or mandating statewide mask usage as many expected, but to implore Ohioans to do more to protect the state from the worsening pandemic situation reported in states like Florida.

Governor DeWine said the state is at a critical point in the COVID-19 pandemic and implored Ohioans to take appropriate action to reverse the rapidly increasing spread of the virus.

“Today, more Ohioans are getting sick than at any previous point in this pandemic. We are sliding down a very dangerous path, with our once flattened-curve starting to sharpen and spike,” said Governor DeWine. “This is a worrisome, disturbing reversal of our progress — a jarring reminder of just how quickly our fate can change.”

Governor DeWine commended Ohioans for doing their part at the beginning of the pandemic. However, with positive cases increasing, he reminded Ohioans that the choices they make today will impact the spread of the virus in the coming weeks. During the speech, grounded in scientific evidence and data, Governor DeWine reminded Ohioans about the efficacy of facial coverings to protect themselves, loved ones, friends, neighbors and other citizens. He also renewed the call to socially distance and limit public gatherings.

“I am calling on all Ohioans to once again unite. We must work together, support each other, and help each other through this challenging time. I’ve seen you do this. I know you can do this. Ohioans can continue to help our most vulnerable, while also protecting ourselves and our families. Together, we can be the Ohio where our hospitals are not overwhelmed, where our schools can open, where sports can start, and where our economy can continue to grow, Governor DeWine added.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted on Thursday, July 9, provided the following updates on Ohio’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updated county risk levels

Governor DeWine announced on July 9, new public health data has led the Ohio Department of Health to designate 12 counties as being in a Red Alert Level 3 Public Emergency as defined by the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. Upgraded to Level 3 were: Clermont, Fairfield, Lorain, Pickaway, Summit and Wood Counties. Continuing at Level 3 are: Butler*, Cuyahoga*, Franklin, Hamilton*, Montgomery and Trumbull Counties. Huron County was downgraded to Level 2. Preble County remained at a Level 2.

Three Red Alert Level 3 counties marked with a star (*) are on Ohio’s “Watch List” as they are approaching Purple Alert Level 4. Franklin County was removed from the Watch List due to a decrease in hospital admissions.

Mask mandates for the new counties upgraded to Red Alert Level 3 mandated wearing masks in public beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 10. Residents in Huron County are no longer required to wear a mask in public, however, they are strongly encouraged to do so.

Governor DeWine announced the creation of the Ohio Public Health Advisory System earlier this month to provide local health departments, community leaders, and the public with data and information on the severity of the COVID-19 spread in the counties in which they live. The system consists of four levels with specific risk-level guidelines. Each level is calculated with data gathered on seven public health indicators.

Higher education guidance

The Ohio Department of Higher Education, in consultation with Ohio colleges, universities, the Ohio Department of Health, and health experts across the state have developed guidance to help campuses safely reopen.

The Responsible RestartOhio guidance for Institutions of Higher Education includes minimum operating standards for all campuses, as well as best practices to further enhance those standards.

“By implementing these minimum requirements and implementing best practices, our higher education communities can continue to educate students and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor DeWine.

Because each campus must develop policies and procedures related to COVID-19 testing, new Guidance for COVID-19 Testing at Institutions of Higher Education was also released to help institutions tailor their testing plan to their community and develop policies related to the isolation of symptomatic students, faculty, and staff members.

K-12 and higher education funding

To help K-12 schools and institutions of higher education address increasing costs associated with the COVID-19 safety measures, Governor DeWine and leaders of the Ohio General Assembly are requesting that the Ohio Controlling Board approve an initial request on Monday to allocate $200 million for higher education and $100 million for K-12 schools from the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

“This funding comes from federal CARES Act dollars to help schools meet their unique individual needs,” said Governor DeWine. “We intend for this funding to be very flexible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The funding would be available to all public and private schools and for all two and four-year colleges and universities, both public and private, including adult career tech providers.

The funding request is in addition to the more than $440 million in direct federal CARES Act funding that Ohio K-12 schools are receiving and the more than $190 million in direct federal funding provided to Ohio’s colleges and universities.

Homelessness grant

Governor DeWine announced he is awarding an additional grant of $15 million to the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio.

The funds will be used to support homelessness prevention efforts and rapidly rehouse individuals and families experiencing homelessness who could be at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, especially those in congregate facilities such as homeless shelters.

The grant funding is in addition to a $1 million grant that Governor DeWine award the coalition in April which helped to keep hundreds of Ohioans safely housed during the pandemic.

IMAP launch

Lt. Governor Husted announced the launch of the Individual Micro-credential Assistance Program (IMAP) which will provide $2.5 million in grants to help unemployed Ohioans earn in-demand, technology-focused credentials that will give them a leg up in finding a job in the increasingly tech-focused economy.

The grant application is open to training providers, such as universities, colleges, Ohio technical centers, or private sector training businesses. Training providers who receive awards will be reimbursed up to $3,000 for each completed technology-focused credential issued and up to $250,000 per provider.

The program was created in partnership with the Ohio House of Representatives.

Training providers interested in applying can find more information at IMAP.Development.Ohio.gov. The deadline to apply is July 24.

Sharedwork program

Governor DeWine recently signed an executive order enabling the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to use federal funding authorized under the CARES Act to enhance the state’s SharedWork program.

Participating employers agree to reduce the affected employees’ hours by a uniform percentage, between 10 percent and 50 percent, for up to 52 weeks. In return, those employees receive SharedWork compensation (which is a prorated unemployment benefit) and, while federally available, may also receive the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit each week.

Since March 15, ODJFS has approved 909 employers who have participated in 1,680 SharedWork Ohio plans, benefiting 46,352 participating employees. For more information visit jfs.ohio.gov/ouio/SharedWorkOhio.

Plasma donation

Lt. Governor Husted encouraged Ohioans who have been fully recovered from COVID-19 for at least two weeks to consider donating plasma.

“Convalescent plasma, which is plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, is rich in antibodies that could possibly attack the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Lt. Governor Husted. “Although the treatment of COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma remains in the investigation stage, it shows promise to lessen the severity or shorten the length of COVID-19 and is something that could potentially save lives in our continual fight against the coronavirus.”

For more information or to sign up to donate, visit redcrossblood.org/plasma4covid or contact a local blood donor or plasma collection center.

Current COVID-19 data

As of Wednesday’s updated numbers, there have been reported 69,311 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 3,075 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. A total of 9,209 people have been hospitalized, including 2,259 admissions to intensive care units. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov. According to ODH, as of Wednesday, there had been 97 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 reported in Preble County. ODH reports 57 are “presumed recovered.” There remains one reported death and 15 cumulative hospitalizations.

For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

Governor implores Ohioans to wear masks in Wednesday evening speech

R-H Staff