By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — About 2,000 child care centers have been approved so far under a special “pandemic” license, while lawmakers are rushing to pass legislation to address the widespread impact of the coronavirus. A look at virus-related developments in Ohio on Wednesday:
Ohio has more than 700 cases, including 116 health care workers, and 10 deaths. A handful of long-term care centers are being called hotspots for cases.
The state Controlling Board on Wednesday added $15.6 million to the Ohio Department of Health’s budget to provide supplies to front-line healthcare workers. The bipartisan legislative board approves a wide variety of state spending.
The state is limiting testing to those who are hospitalized and to health care workers. The Health Department said people with suspected symptoms should call a medical provider first, but seek immediate help if symptoms are serious, such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Mandatory state testing for schools would be ditched this year, absentee ballot voting for the postponed primary would be allowed until April 28, and the deadline for filing state income taxes would be extended until July 15 under wide-ranging legislation approved by lawmakers Wednesday to address the impact of the coronavirus.
Ohio’s two U.S. attorneys and Attorney General Dave Yost promised swift action including criminal charges against doctors found to have improperly prescribing the drugs chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 for patients who don’t have a positive test.
But the state is cracking down on companies violating the governor’s “stay at home” order, which limits business operations to those providing essential services.
“Enforcement is coming. We can’t have people who are violating this. Because it’s not fair,” said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
As questions continue about what jobs are considered essential, the state said several trades are on that list, including building and construction tradespeople, plumbers, electricians, and exterminators, among several others.
Ohio medical marijuana patients and their caregivers can telephone orders to dispensaries during the outbreak under revised Board of Pharmacy rules. Orders must be placed during dispensaries’ normal hours, and patients must go there to pick up products.
NURSING HOMES OUTBREAK
So far, two deaths have been linked to an outbreak at a pair of nursing homes in Miami County, north of Dayton, after an 89-year-old woman died Wednesday. Tests results are still pending for two other residents who died last week, the county health department said.
But for the second consecutive day, no new cases or hospitalizations have been connected to the outbreaks at both facilities in Troy and Tipp City.
HEALTH CARE WORKERS
Doctors, nurses and other health care workers account for one in every six confirmed cases in the state.
They remain one of the most vulnerable groups, and staffing could become an issue as more health care workers become sick, said Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. “It is a massive, moving puzzle piece of staffing that I’m thinking about,” she said.
THE NEW NORMAL
About 1,500 child care centers and family homes have been approved to date under a special license to care for the children of first responders, health care workers, children service workers, and other workers deemed essential. All others must close Thursday. An emergency relief bill passed Wednesday allows the state to continue paying providers at any publicly-funded child care centers that are shut down
In Dayton, plans are on hold to rebuild homes damaged in last year’s Memorial Day weekend tornado outbreak as volunteer groups are canceling planned trips to the area.
The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio warned Wednesday that emergency shelters and other homeless programs lack cleaning, hygiene and protective supplies and nearly all lack space needed to quarantine and isolate anyone suspected of contact with the coronavirus or who have COVID-19.
Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, John Seewer in Columbus and Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed to this report.