Pandemic Response Week In Review


Throughout the week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was joined by Lt. Governor Jon Husted, and provided updates on Ohio's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other state initiatives. 

On Monday, Governor DeWine and Lt. Governor Husted announced the approval of assistance for five projects set to create 574 new jobs and retain 1,058 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought to the board by JobsOhio and its regional partners. Collectively, the projects are expected to result in more than $23 million in new payroll and spur more than $68 million in investments across Ohio.  

Also on Monday, First Lady Fran DeWine announced progress in reaching young Ohio readers in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library (OGIL) Program’s first year. 

Now, 206,463 Ohio children from birth to age 5 are enrolled to receive a free Imagination Library book in the mail every single month.  The program is currently offered countywide to children in 78 of Ohio’s counties, with an additional three – Crawford, Van Wert, and Mercer – launching the OGIL Program in September.

“Thanks to dedicated Ohio lawmakers, who are investing in our kids with matching funding, and our wonderful local partners, the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library has made outstanding progress in its first year,” said Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine. “But we still have more work to do. Mike and I look forward to the day that every young child in Ohio– no matter what city, county, village or township that child lives in -- has access to the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library books.”

Last summer, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program was available in pockets of Ohio when the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library partnered with the Dolly Parton program. 93,483 children were enrolled in August 2019. In September 2020 enrollment will more than double to 206,463.

“I really enjoyed visiting with our local partners and families in 16 Ohio counties between January and March of this year,” said Mrs. DeWine. “Of course, that was before the COVID-19 pandemic.  But we’ve continued working to find county partners during these recent months, because we know this program works. Young children are excited to receive the book each month in the mail, which is addressed to them. And just having these books in the home promotes a love of learning and family bonding that we know adds up to preparing children for kindergarten. I encourage all Ohio children to sign up for these free books!”

Only seven Ohio counties -- Ashland, Columbiana, Lake, Ottawa, Richland, Sandusky, and Seneca – remain without a countywide program.

Parents and caregivers can sign up children at www.OhioImaginationLibrary.org.

Additionally, Governor DeWine announced that the following order has been signed by Ohio Department of Health Interim Director Lance Himes:

  • Director’s Order on the Opening of Adult Day Care Services and Senior Centers

On Tuesday, Governor DeWine reminded citizens to take safety precautions when celebrating with others outside of their households. 

"Ohio reported its highest number of new cases since the end of July, which is a stark reminder that this virus has not gone away and it continues to spread in our communities," said Governor DeWine. "As you consider gathering with family and friends this weekend, please remember that COVID-19 still represents a significant risk to the lives and livelihoods of citizens in Ohio."

Governor DeWine encourages citizens to continue regular hand-washing, social distancing, and disinfecting. The mask mandate in Ohio remains in effect for all 88 counties.

In the weeks following the Fourth of July, Ohio began to see a significant increase in cases caused, in part, by holiday gatherings.

ADDED TRAFFIC-SAFETY EFFORTS

Governor DeWine announced three new traffic-safety efforts aimed at reducing the number of fatalities on Ohio's roads and better ensuring that Ohio's young drivers have the necessary skills to safely navigate the streets. 

Ohio Traffic Safety Council: The new council, led by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, will be composed of representatives of several state agencies and outside groups. The role of the council will be to coordinate and monitor all statewide traffic safety initiatives, analyze trends, and advise the Governor on creating safer roads through education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency response.

Work Zone Enforcement: Because enforcing traffic laws can be a challenge in work zones, the Ohio State Highway Patrol Aviation Unit, which already conducts speed checks from the air, will conduct targeted enforcement on crash-causing violations in Ohio Department of Transportation construction zones. The increased enforcement is in response to the nearly 9,000 work-zone crashes in Ohio between 2019 and 2020. 

Juvenile Court Grants: Eight juvenile courts in Ohio have been awarded grant funding through the Ohio Department of Public Safety to help them provide young drivers more access to advanced driver training. Courts in Adams, Athens, Medina, Knox, Delaware, Miami, Fairfield, and Delaware counties will each receive $20,000 through Ohio's new Youthful Driver Safety Fund which was developed as part of Ohio's biennium budget.

The new traffic safety efforts are in addition to several other initiatives launched by Governor DeWine since 2019 including the creation of the Intersection Safety Program to improve the safety of 150 rural, urban, and suburban intersections across the state; the development of the "Ohio - Ready, Test, Drive!" program to help enhance the skills of new drivers; and the creation of several distracted driving corridors to reduce distracted driving in Ohio. Governor DeWine also worked with members of the General Assembly to introduce the Hands-Free Ohio bill, which is currently pending in the Ohio General Assembly, to strengthen Ohio's laws related to the use of wireless devices while driving. 

Governor DeWine also encouraged Ohio's drivers to watch their speeds after Ohio recorded 154 traffic fatalities in July - the highest number of traffic fatalities in one month since 2007. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, one in three of those killed in July was involved in a speed-related crash.

BROADBAND EXPANSION EFFORTS

Lt. Governor Husted announced that over 900 grant requests have been approved for the K-12 Broadband Connectivity Grant to go towards hotspots and internet-enabled devices. This enables 121,000 students to gain high-speed internet in their homes, thanks to the devices provided by this grant based on information provided by the schools. In areas where there are barriers to take-home devices, the grant will also support the creation of new public wi-fi and mobile wi-fi spaces to help students connect to the internet. There are over 645,000 students in schools that are increasing their public wi-fi or using mobile wi-fi.  Those students will have a place to go to access the internet if they do not have access in their homes.

By the end of this week, schools will receive notifications of their final award and can begin the process of purchasing these items through the Ohio Department of Education and BroadbandOhio.

The Lt. Governor also provided an update on Ohio’s telehealth pilot project at Switzerland of Ohio School District in Monroe County. The objective is to connect the school district with behavioral health services. Districts interested in developing telehealth services can now review the Telehealth in Schools Blueprint, which provides a better understanding of lessons learned through the pilot project.

The Blueprint can be found here: innovate.ohio.gov/broadband.

Progress has also been made through Ohio’s Common Sense Initiative (CSI) to streamline broadband regulations through their new Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool.

The tool found:

  • 303 definitions related to the regulation of broadband, found in Ohio’s rules or statutes across 25 different state agencies
  • 16 different definitions of public utility in Ohio law across 5 different agencies

In an effort to develop a strategy that will create a clear and concise set of terminology for broadband providers to follow, the Lt. Governor and CSI will work with agencies to streamline these definitions.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

Lt. Governor Husted also unveiled a new public service announcement to encourage Ohioans to wear masks. The PSA features 99-year-old Jim “Pee Wee” Martin who lives in Sugarcreek Township in Greene County.

Jim volunteered to be a WWII Paratrooper, an original member of Company “G”, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. His nickname “Pee Wee” was earned because he was 106 pounds, the smallest and lightest guy in the company. In 1944, Jim jumped into France over Utah Beach the night prior to D-Day and fought for 33 days in the Normandy campaign. He also fought in Holland, Belgium, and Germany.

Among his many awards, Jim earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his great work.

“Wearing a mask to protect Jim “Pee Wee” Martin seems like a small sacrifice for us to protect people like him, considering all he did to protect us,” said Lt. Governor Husted.

On Thursday, Governor DeWine released this week's Ohio Public Health Advisory System map. New health data compiled by the Ohio Department of Health indicates that seven counties currently have a very high risk of exposure and spread. 

A total of 67 counties stayed at the same level as last week, and 12 counties moved from orange to yellow. There are now a total of 39 counties in the yellow level, the highest number since July 2. Detailed information all of Ohio's 88 counties can be found on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System's website. 

SCHOOL REPORTING ORDER

Beginning Tuesday, September 8, parents or guardians and school staff should notify their school within 24 hours of receiving a positive test or a clinical diagnosis. Within 24 hours after receiving that notification, the school should notify other parents and guardians about that case in writing, providing as much information as possible without releasing protected health information. The school must also notify their local health department within 24 hours. 

Beginning Tuesday, September 15, and each Tuesday thereafter, local health departments will report the number of newly reported and cumulative cases to the Ohio Department of Health. The Ohio Department of Health will publish this data by school or school district, including a breakdown by students and staff, each Thursday.

"We understand there is a balance between privacy and transparency, and we do not intend for protected health information to be released in our effort to provide information to Ohioans so they can make the right decisions for their family," said Governor DeWine. "Please remember that if a school has positive cases among their students or staff, it does not mean the school did anything wrong. Schools cannot control spread in the community, so it is important to practice safety measures not only in the classroom but also when you’re out in the community."

The order will also require each school district or school to identify a COVID-19 coordinator to facilitate the reporting of case information, and upon request, schools or buildings are required to provide the local health department a copy of their pandemic plan.

LABOR DAY AND SPREAD BY YOUNG OHIOANS

Governor DeWine once again encouraged Ohioans to take proper safety precautions over the upcoming Labor Day weekend. He stressed that citizens can still have fun, visit family, and travel, but face coverings, social distancing, and hand washing should also be part of your plans. 

"It's not about where we go, but rather, what we do when we get there," said Governor DeWine. "It's about how we act when we're with family and friends and what precautions we take. The decisions we make as we celebrate the unofficial end of summer will play a major role in how we begin the fall."

Governor DeWine also reminded young Ohioans of their responsibility to follow safety precautions, especially students attending a college or university.

Case data shows that those aged 18-22 currently make up 35-40 percent of all young Ohioans who have tested positive for the virus which is a significant increase from previous months.

"In Cincinnati, multiple off-campus parties with students attending from several universities on August 17 have resulted in at least 78 confirmed cases," said Governor DeWine. "Although college students might not get seriously ill, they could spread the virus to others who could. The responsibility falls on all of us to protect each other."

WASTEWATER MONITORING NETWORK

Governor DeWine announced that information from Ohio's new Coronavirus Wastewater Monitoring Network is now available at coronavirus.ohio.gov. 

The network was developed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through the study of wastewater samples. The presence of coronavirus gene copies/fragments can be found in the waste of symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals and can be detected in wastewater as many as three to seven days before those infections lead to increases in case counts or hospitalizations in a community.

DEFENSE MANUFACTURING COMMUNITY

Lt. Governor Husted announced that, in an effort led by the Development Services Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense has made a commitment to Ohio’s defense manufacturers and put the state in a position to receive a $5 million grant to improve manufacturing processes and train workers for next-generation jobs.

Ohio has been designated as a Defense Manufacturing Community, which is a program designed to support long-term community investments that strengthen national security innovation and expand the capabilities of defense manufacturing.

STEP UP TO QUALITY

As of last Tuesday, all child care providers in Ohio that serve publicly funded children were required to be rated on Ohio’s child care quality rating system, called Step Up To Quality.

Governor DeWine announced that over 4,400 providers are now rated through the system. This is more than double the number of rated quality child care providers when he took office in 2019. By 2025, all providers must be rated three stars or higher on the rating system. 

H2OHIO LEAD UPDATE

Governor DeWine announced that Greater Cincinnati Water Works will receive $725,000 in H2Ohio funding from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to remove and replace lead service lines and fixtures at nearly 200 child care facilities in Cincinnati. 

The H2Ohio initiative launched last year to address a number of water quality issues in Ohio including lead pipes feeding into childcare centers. Although lead in water is rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, it can significantly increase someone’s total lead exposure – especially infants who drink baby formula or concentrated juices mixed with contaminated water.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

Governor DeWine shared a public service announcement from Dr. Sophia Tolliver, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Tolliver shared information on the importance of wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19.  

On Friday, Governor DeWine has ordered that flags of the United States and the State of Ohio be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds throughout Cuyahoga County and at the Ohio Statehouse, Vern Riffe Center, and Rhodes Tower in Columbus in honor of the life and service of Cleveland Police Detective James Skernivitz,. Flags will remain lowered until sunset on the day of Detective Skernivitz’s funeral.

All other public buildings and grounds throughout the state may fly the flags of the United States and the State of Ohio at half-staff at their discretion for the same time period.

Friday afternoon, Governor DeWine announced that the following order has been signed by Ohio Department of Health Interim Director Lance Himes:

  • Director's Order Requiring Reporting and Notification Regarding COVID-19 Cases in Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade Schools

Also on Friday, Governor DeWine issued the following three reprieves of execution:

  • Cleveland Jackson, who was scheduled to be executed on January 13, 2021.  The new date of execution has been moved to June 15, 2023. 
  • James O'Neal, who was scheduled to be executed on February 18, 2021.  The new date of execution has been moved to August 16, 2023. 
  • Melvin Bonnell, who was scheduled to be executed on March 18, 2021.  The new date of execution has been moved to October 18, 2023. 

Governor DeWine is issuing these reprieves due to ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), pursuant to DRC protocol, without endangering other Ohioans. 

On Saturday, Governor DeWine announced that the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals have been granted a variance to the state sports order that will allow a total of up to 6000 spectators at two home games. 

The variances allow no more than 1500 spectators in each side of the stadium. Fans must use the designated entrance for their ticket. In addition, all fans must wear a mask in accordance with state regulations. Games included in the variance include:

  • September 17th: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
  • September 27th: Washington Football Team at Cleveland Browns
  • October 4th: Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals
  • October 25th: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

"This year will certainly be different, but both the Browns and the Bengals have worked exceedingly hard and have made extensive preparations to welcome a limited number of fans to their stadiums safely," said Governor Mike DeWine. "These very thorough plans and safety precautions warrant a two-game trial to try and accommodate fans, at reduced capacities with social distancing and masks."

DeWine spoke with leadership of both the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals organizations to inform them of the variances.

CURRENT COVID-19 DATA

As of Friday afternoon, there are 128,444 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 4,248 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. A total of 13,731 people have been hospitalized, including 3,022 admissions to intensive care units. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov.