(WTVG) – The novel coronavirus COVID-19 made its arrival in Ohio in early March as three cases were confirmed in Cuyahoga County. All three of those cases were in adults over the age of 50 who had recently traveled outside of the state, and two had traveled outside of the country. On March 11, a fourth case was confirmed in Stark County, the first case of community spread.
On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic as U.S. cases grew to more than 1,000. So what does all this mean for you? There are a lot of questions and there is a lot of information to parse through. We likely won’t be able to answer all of them, but we’ve assembled this guide to help point you in the right direction.
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Current Cases in Ohio
COVID-19: What is it?
Who is at risk?
How do I stay safe?
How do I get tested?
How Schools are Reacting
Dealing with Travel
As of 2 p.m. March 12, the Ohio Department of Health is tracking the following number of cases in the state:
Confirmed Cases: 5
Cases Under Investigation: 52
The Department of Health has created a website which updates these numbers daily, which you can find HERE. You can also find a number of resources to help answer some of your questions. They have also created a COVID-19 hotline you can call to get your questions answered. That number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634)
Following the confirmation of those cases, Gov. Mike DeWine signed an emergency order, declaring a State of Emergency for Ohio. This state of emergency does not mean it’s time to panic, rather it allows state agencies more ability to mobilize their resources to fight the outbreak.
On March 10, the governor made another statement to the media, recommending that colleges and universities cancel in-person classes, switching to online courses (for more on that, click here). The governor also recommended that large indoor sporting events proceed without spectators, prompting both the MAC basketball tournament and the OHSAA to restrict crowds at planned events.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 (which stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019) is “a diseased caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.”
This strain of coronavirus is novel, a type not previously discovered, which makes it different from other, more common forms of coronaviruses. According to WHO, “several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).”
COVID-19 carries many of the same symptoms as more common coronaviruses, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These symptoms typically present 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms of COVID-19 have ranged in severity among patients who have tested positive.
Additional information on symptoms can be found on the CDC’s website.
Statistically, COVID-19 symptoms are mild in the majority of patients. Among the factors that determine the severity of symptoms is whether the patient is part of one of the many high-risk groups. According to the CDC, those groups include older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. The WHO also adds those being treated for high blood pressure and patients undergoing treatment for cancer. People who are otherwise immunocompromised, though not listed on official documentation, may also consider taking stricter precautions.
The CDC also lists what they call “special populations,” including pregnant women, young children (though available evidence suggests children may be particularly resilient to this virus), and the homeless. So far, these populations have not proven to be of high-risk of developing severe symptoms but have been considered high risk for other infectious diseases.
The answer to this question depends on whether you fall into one of the above risk categories.
If you are in a high-risk group, the CDC recommends a number of precautions, including limiting your contact with others, avoiding crowds, and restricting non-essential travel. When you are out in public stay away from anyone who is sick.
If you are not in a high-risk group, the above precautions also apply to you. Low-risk individuals should also be aware of when they may come into contact with high-risk individuals and do what they can to limit the possibility of passing on any germs.
Regardless of your status, the most important thing anyone can do is wash your hands regularly. Is it simple? Yes, but it is also extremely effective in killing and removing viruses from the part of our body that comes into frequent contact with other people and common surfaces. You should also clean surfaces often, including wiping down counters, desks, and phones (including your mobile phone!), and wear a mask if you are exhibiting symptoms. Note that masks are unlikely to protect you from contracting an illness, but they do protect others around you from contracting an illness from you.
The CDC lists a number of additional precautions you may want to take on their website.
If you have symptoms you believe could be COVID-19, you likely want to get tested for the virus. The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department implores anyone who is not experiencing an emergency to avoid flooding emergency rooms for mild symptoms. They also ask that anyone who believes they may have the listed symptoms of COVID-19 to call their doctors before heading into the office. This allows your doctor to prepare for you to arrive if they do believe you may have COVID-19, and protects both the health workers and patients who may be immunocompromised.
So, who gets tested? Right now there are a number of criteria patients need to meet in order to be considered for testing. According to the Ohio Department of Health, those who are hospitalized and meet the following criteria will be tested in the state lab:
- Have a fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness, (e.g., cough or shortness of breath) and have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset.
- Have a fever and signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness, and a history of travel from affected geographic areas with widespread or sustained community transmission within 14 days of symptom onset.
- Have a fever with severe acute lower respiratory illness and lack of alternative diagnosis (e.g., negative respiratory viral panel, negative rapid flu).
Those who are not hospitalized, but meet the above criteria, again, should call their personal doctor. They will then be tested by a private lab in the state..
The Ohio Department of Health will confirm all positive tests, regardless of where those tests took place.
Following Gov. DeWine’s recommendations on March 10, many Ohio colleges and universities decided to suspend face-to-face classes in favor of online-only education. The University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Lourdes University, the University of Akron, The Ohio State University, Miami University, Ohio University are among those who made this switch.
Dates of online instruction vary depending on the school, especially as the decision comes amid a staggered Spring Break schedule. Many of these dates have been posted to our website. For the most up to date information, however, you should consult the website for the specific school.
Most colleges and universities have also increased travel restrictions for faculty, staff, and students.
As of March 11, K-12 schools will remain in session, though school districts are taking some precautions to limit school events that draw large crowds. Perrysburg Schools are among those suspending field trips and school activities like banquets, concerts, and other performances.
As with colleges and universities, for the most up-to-date information, you should consult your child’s school directly.
COVID-19 is also affecting plans for Ohio’s primary election coming up on March 17. In an effort to protect vulnerable communities, polling locations are being moved out of senior living centers. In Lucas County, voters who would normally cast their ballot at Sunset Village will instead head to the Joseph Diegn Legion Post in Sylvania.
Polling locations in other counties are also affected. To check your polling location, click here.
Travel is among the industries most affected by COVID-19. At least two cruise ships have been trapped in quarantine due to cases of the virus discovered on board, both have since docked and their passengers allowed to leave the ship.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 has appeared in dozens of countries worldwide. Confirmed cases of the virus topped 100,000 in early March and deaths due to COVID-19 number in the thousands (the majority confined to the area of China where the virus was first discovered). The CDC has placed several of the countries hardest hit by the virus on their travel restriction list, including China, Italy, and Iran.
Avoiding unnecessary travel is among the most common advice from healthcare professionals when it comes to preventing the spread of the disease. As travelers reassess planned vacations, many companies are offering assistance to passengers who choose to stay home. If you have an upcoming vacation you need to cancel, you’re advised to contact your airline, hotel, or cruise line to see if they will provide options for postponement.
Some travelers, especially those planning new vacations, may not find it so easy to cancel or even to prepare for the possibility. Travel agents we spoke to say you should be sure to read the fine print on any tickets purchased and make sure that your travel insurance (if purchased) will cover cancelation for any reason.
- Public health expert warns virus not going away – KSAT San Antonio
- Tesla asks employees to resume production at Fremont car plant despite coronavirus health orders – CNBC
- Major health groups and charities urge Trump to reverse World Health Organization funding decision – CNN
- Public health officials push back on May opening | TheHill – The Hill
- Analysis | The Health 202: Los Angeles is racing to discover the true coronavirus infection rate – The Washington Post
- Some Public Health Officials Not Releasing Coronavirus Hospitalizations : Shots – Health News – NPR
- Covid-19 health-care crisis could drive new developments in robotics, editorial says – The Washington Post
- Lost Your Health Insurance During the COVID-19 Crisis? Here Are Your Options – The Motley Fool
- El Paso virus cases jump to 35 as health leaders warn of increased risk of ‘community spread’ – KVIA El Paso