DeWine Urges Manufacturers to Help Make PPE

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With a surge of coronavirus diagnoses expected in Ohio in the coming weeks, the state is working to ensure the health-care systems have the equipment needed to treat patients.

Among those efforts, Gov. Mike DeWine said Saturday at his daily press conference, is Battelle Memorial Institute’s creation of machines that can sterilize up to 80,000 masks at a time. The nonprofit research company has committed to having two such machines in Ohio and will send them to Seattle, New York City and Washington, D.C., as well. 

“This is not only important to Ohio,” DeWine said. “This is an exciting thing. I start with this because I want to make a public appeal to the FDA. Please, please give us the approval to use these. We have nurses, ppl in nursing homes that need these.”

He also spoke about the need for personal protective equipment among medical workers. Treating a patient in intensive care requires 66 pieces of PPE daily, he said. The most needed items are surgical gowns, masks, gloves, N-95 respirators, isolation gowns, face shields, Tyvek coveralls, thermometers, foot coverings and ventilator tubing.

“These are essential items to keep the people working on the front lines, the real heroes, safe every single day,” DeWine said. “We received our share from the National Strategic Stockpile, but like every other state, it was simply not enough. We need a lot, lot more.” 

DeWine urged manufacturers who have the capability to make such equipment to reach out to Ohio Department of Administrative Services director Matt Damschroder or email [email protected].

“If you are a manufacturer … we need to hear from you right away,” DeWine said. “These are our 10 most wanted items. If anyone can make this or thinks they can make it or wants more specifications, I want you to reach out to us.”

Across the state, he continued, organizations ranging from nonessential businesses to career and technical centers have donated their stock of PPE.

“Everyone not directly in the medical field has come up,” DeWine said. 

Access to PPE will help slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health. At its peak in late April or mid-May, Ohio is expected to see between 6,000 and 10,000 new cases per day, Acton and DeWine said Friday. Based on new models from the Cleveland Clinic, the state can expect to see a surge in new cases in about two weeks. 

That peak, DeWine said, is up to three times Ohio’s capacity. Had safety measures such as social distancing and stay-at-home orders for all but essential businesses not been put into place, the peak would have been about 75% higher and much sooner, Acton said.

“As we think about that line, think of how many more masks, how much more PPE, how many more hospital beds, how much more we’d have to build out if we were on that [original] curve,” she said. “You at home have helped us buy time and [limited] how much we will need. Every day we don’t spread this disease … and don’t see doubling, it makes it easier for our frontline workers. It means we need less PPE. It means we need less ventilators.”

With that surge approaching, DeWine has broken the state into eight regions, with all medical systems in each area working on a plan together for how the health-care industry will handle the coronavirus. 

The regions submitted their initial plans to DeWine Saturday morning and final plans are to be in by noon Monday. Once finalized, they will be made public, he said.

“There are basic principles in regards to these plans. Probably the most important thing is that we can’t get through this by each hospital doing its own thing,” he said. “The only way we can get through this is by all hospitals in each region coming together with one plan, speaking with one voice, and having a commitment to continue to work very closely together.”

Also of concern is the number of beds available to handle that surge, to which DeWine urged health-care organizations to remember community partners.

“There may be opportunities with nursing homes where people who are not infected could go and some beds could be [housed] there,” he said. “We want you to look at the whole realm of possibilities. Some are looking at hotel rooms. Some are looking at hospitals that have closed but could be brought to speed quickly.”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted discussed the most recent coronavirus relief package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump Friday. Ohio has opted into all five unemployment measures included in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, including benefits for 1099 contractors and self-employed workers. Those benefits will be backdated to Jan. 27 and will be available for 39 weeks.

And to handle the increase of unemployment benefit applications – for the week ended March 21, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services received 187,780 claims – the state has increased the capacity of its online application portal by 20 times, Husted said.

Pictured: Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton and Gov. Mike DeWine at their daily press conference Saturday.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.