Gov. DeWine says “our healthcare system will not hold up” if COVID-19 spreads unabated
by Chris Horne, The Devil Strip
Gov. Mike DeWine is ordering bars and restaurants to close at 9 pm Sunday, March 15 and remain closed indefinitely as officials attempt to slow the COVID-19 outbreak in Ohio.
Carryout and delivery food is still allowed and encouraged.
“Delay means more people will die,” DeWine says, “The data is clear.”
The danger, he says, is not just to those affected directly by COVID-19 but also to all those who need emergency services that won’t be available if the health care system is overwhelmed by those being treated for COVID-19.
“Some of our kids will get sick, and some of our kids will die,” says Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health.
She says the more the virus spreads, the more it will limit critical resources, which has a ripple effect beyond COVID-19. For example, without social distancing, you risk getting nurses, EMTs and firefighters at risk of getting sick, who the community still needs for responding to unrelated emergencies.
“This is the real deal,” Acton says. “This is the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, and what each of us does matters.”
To minimize the damage to the economy, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says the order to close bars and restaurants was developed in conversation with small business owners as well as restaurant and bar associations.
The state will extend unemployment benefits for employees affected by this order. Details for workers will be available at unemployment.ohio.gov
Husted adds that bars and restaurants can return excess alcohol purchased in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness. Businesses affected by the outbreak can also benefit from a moratorium on certain taxes. Additional information for small businesses can be found at development.ohio.gov/businessservices.htm and sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance.
Without social distancing, DeWine says, “our healthcare system will not hold up.”
Acton says the state’s confirmed cases are “only the tip of the iceberg,” and that more than 350 people are currently being investigated for possibly having COVID-19, some as young as 31 years old.
The time between infection to onset is about two weeks. Deaths, she says, occur within six weeks.
“We are going to have multiple Wuhans in this country,” Acton says, referencing the province of China where the virus first emerged. She says this is because the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 was allowed to spread in the U.S. without prevention or testing for weeks.
DeWine says he understands this order will affect the livelihood of many people, but these actions must be taken because SARS-CoV-2 is much more contagious than the flu and COVID-19 is much deadlier, too.
“It’s a matter of life and death for me to make these decisions,” DeWine says.
At this time, he says there are no plans to affect other businesses, including movie theaters, as long as they comply with the state’s other COVID-19 regulations that limit gatherings above 100 people at a time. One cinema in Columbus, he notes, is offering seats with an appropriate amount of spacing.
DeWine says there are no plans for a statewide curfew.
Drawing a parallel with the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic, DeWine compares the way Philadelphia and St. Louis approached containment. St. Louis began practicing social distancing two days earlier than Philadelphia and saved many more lives that way.
Husted says there is something everyone can do to help other people. At a minimum, he says take social distancing seriously, but he adds you can also give blood, donate food, assist the elderly and other high-risk neighbors.
Not to mention, it doesn’t hurt to call or write your friends and loved ones.
“People still like to get letters,” DeWine says.
To learn more about the COVID-19 outbreak, you can check these local, state and national sources for reliable information:
State of Ohio, Public Health – https://coronavirus.ohio.gov
Gov. Mike DeWine updates – https://governor.ohio.gov
Summit County, Public Health – https://www.scph.org/covid-19
City of Akron, COVID-19 – https://www.akronohio.gov/cms/site/e5cc2d6891a12eed/index.html