New Coronavirus Measures Meant to Protect Elderly, Medical Workers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — As officials take aggressive actions to protect Ohioans from the community spread of the coronavirus, the measures are meant to protect health care workers and prevent the state’s health care system from being overtaxed and conserve personal protective gear for medical personnel. 

The need for social distancing is one of the best measures to curb the virus from spreading as people are infectious up to 14 days before symptoms are felt, said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, and one person can infect up to 2.28 people. Statistics show the disease doubles every six days and deaths can take four to six weeks from the time of infection.

Because of limited tests and a shortage of protective gear for medical personnel, Acton said testing is being prioritized to high risk populations like the elderly and people with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems and health care workers.

“This is the real thing. It is not a drill. It is a once in a lifetime pandemic,” Acton said.

More hospitals are coming on line for testing and people are hearing about the two drive-thru testing sites set up by the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, but Acton said at this point with community spread, health care professionals are going to assess people and not everyone will need to be tested.

“We’re prioritizing tests for those at high risk and health care workers. Most doctors will talk to patients and say, ‘Let’s assume you have it and self-quarantine’ and are not going to test you,” Acton said. “You don’t need that testing to know what to do.”

Acton said that sites are being set up for people who are feeling ill to go so they won’t walk into the emergency room and expose the waiting area. 

Gov. Mike DeWine urged older Ohioans to not only practice social distancing, but protect themselves by remaining at home. Acton said community members can help by checking in on neighbors, helping them by buying groceries or going to the pharmacy to keep lifelines open.

“We know that this population is at higher risk of contracting the virus, but this high-risk group has up to 15% higher fatality rate,” Acton said. “We must protect this population. If nonessential, you should not be doing it.”

Bans on mass gatherings, suspending restaurants to carry-out only and closing bars and some nonessential businesses – such as movie theaters, bars, fitness facilities and other sites. Grocery stores will remain open. These measures to not only curb the virus from spreading but to also keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed as protective gear for health care workers is being conserved. 

DeWine said one of the reasons for these actions is because of the limited supply of protective equipment for health care workers.  According to the Ohio Emergency Management Association, the state received a shipment from the strategic national stockpile,  but the quantity of supplies is limited and not being dispersed at this time, with a 71-day delivery delay in shipments. 

Health officials are asking people, physicians, veterinarians and dentists to refrain from elective procedures. Dentists and veterinarians are being asked to donate any protective gear such as masks, gloves, face shields, etc. to hospitals. The delay iis the result of the equipment being produced and shipped from China, state officials said. 

The shortage of protective gear caused DeWine to take a moment over the weekend to editorialize about the country’s reliance on essential equipment on a foreign supply chain. 

“We should never let ourselves get in that position again. I’m not blaming anybody. This just occurred over a long period of time but after this crisis is over, we have to think what’s strategic, what do we have to be able to produce what do we have to have at capacity to ramp up in this country,” DeWine said over the weekend. 

Acton said the food and beverage industry is offering to donate unused latex gloves. Any veterinarians or dentists who are able to donate unused protective equipment, should take it to area Emergency Management Agency branches, she added. 

As of Monday evening, 50 Ohioans had tested positive for the virus in 12 counties and 333 people are under health supervision. Acton said that what concerns her are that 14 of the positive cases have been hospitalized. 

The age range is 14-86, with the median age of 51. There are 20 females and 30 males.

Acton said people should not panic if they find a shortage of disinfectant wipes at stores because soap and water kills the virus.

Pictured: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during a March 13 press conference on the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.