Hopeful but Cautious Update on Ohio’s COVID-19 Curve

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — New modeling presented Wednesday by Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, offered hopeful news about the state’s COVID-19 curve, though she tempered that hope with caution.

The latest projection curve under the strict social distancing efforts put in place by the state shows the curve peaking in the middle of the month at about 1,607 new cases daily. That’s down from nearly 9,000 daily cases projected by previous modeling.

During the daily briefing at the statehouse, Acton attributed the flattening of the curve to Ohioans’ adherence to the social distancing policies.

“In Ohio, we took our prediction and you have basically done this,” said Acton, showing an animated graphic of the curve flattening. “You have squashed this and you have stretched it.

The action have also bought hospitals time to prepare so they might not need to build out as much to accommodate the oncoming surge, she said. Additionally, health departments have the ability to be “mobile, agile and flexible” in responding to the needs of hospitals, as well as “hotspots” like nursing homes and prisons.

Acton cautioned Ohioans that this doesn’t mean the restrictions can be removed, nor can individuals return to typical social norms. It’s important to stay the course, because returning to those norms now could have the curve jump back up in two weeks, she said.

“If there ever has been a time that we have to realize how interdependent we all are on each other – the one health concept, the worldwide concept – this is it,” Acton said. “There’s noway out of this without what we’re going to do together.

“We’re going in the right direction, but we’re not out of the woods by any stretch,” Acton continued.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted echoed Acton’s sentiments, saying progress is being made and Ohio is “doing well” compared to other states, but there are still reminders that COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus, is making an impact on Ohioans.

DeWine announced the recent death of John Dawson, 55, a corrections officer at the Marion Correctional Institution, where he had worked since 1996. Dawson tested positive for COVID-19 on March 30, and was the second officer to test positive from the prison.

“Mr. Dawson’s death reminds us that as we celebrate the fact that Ohio is doing comparatively well, we are still seeing a large number of deaths,” DeWine said. “People are dying every single day.”

Earlier in the day, the Mahoning County Public Health department reported 28 deaths in Mahoning County, up from 19 the day before.

And there is still the matter of a shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, which is used by health care workers, first responders and nursing home employees when caring for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

DeWine reiterated that Battelle Memorial Institute has the capability to sterilize 160,000 N95 respirator masks daily using two systems in the state. Each mask can be sterilized up to 20 times. Hospitals, first responders and nursing homes can arrange to have their N95 masks sterilized by going to the Battelle website at Battelle.org.

The state is working to bring more N95 masks into the state, and thanked Tim Cook, CEO of Apple for providing 100,000 N95 respirators to the state. However, he implored health care workers, first responders and nursing homes not to throw away their masks, and to reach out to Battelle to have them sterilized.

The state is “working hard at” increasing the state’s PPE stockpile by working with manufacturers to make some and exploring other sources to buy new, Lt. Gov. Husted said.

Husted advised Ohioans that even when the state is past the peak and on the downward slope, things won’t go back to exactly like they were before COVID-19, he said.

“There will be a lot of thoughtful decisions to ensure that as we emerge from the first surge, we don’t create a second surge,” Husted said.

Pulling off restrictions will be gradual, he said, and the emphasis on hygiene and some social distancing won’t go away. “Don’t be offended if you don’t get handshakes or hugs for quite a while,” he said.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.