Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine warned of a coming surge in cases of pandemic coronavirus COVID-19 during his daily briefing today and said the state will need to greatly increase hospital capacity to meet demand.
The state today confirmed 1,137 cases of the virus, including 19 deaths, 107 admissions to intensive care units and 276 hospitalizations across the state.
Those numbers are up sharply from just yesterday, when there were 867 confirmed cases, 15 deaths, 91 admissions to ICUs and 223 people in the hospital due to the virus.
There were 63 cases confirmed in Hamilton County as of today, including 28 in Cincinnati. Nine of those cases across the county required hospitalization; no one here has died of the virus yet, however.
The State of Ohio has released a new interactive dashboard with COVID-19 information, which you can see here.
"There is a real sense of urgency to what I'm doing and what my team is doing every day," DeWine said today. "It is going to take doubling or tripling our hospital capacity."
DeWine said that even with the strict social distancing measures the state has put in place, at the peak of the surge in either April or May, Ohio could see 10,000 cases a day of the virus.
"More than ever folks, stay home," Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said during the briefing. "Everything we are doing is goes far to flatten the curve. We have bought time in Ohio to allow these hospitals system to gear up. We have to keep buying that time. Don't lighten up."
DeWine has ordered progressively more restrictive measures he says are aimed at slowing the spread of the virus — ordering mass gatherings cancelled, restricting restaurants to carryout or delivery and issuing a stay at home order for Ohioans unless they are out for essential work, to get food, medicine or exercise.
All of that comes with an economic cost, DeWine acknowledged — one that state and federal governments are just beginning to address.
Last week, 187,000 residents in the Buckeye State applied for unemployment benefits — likely a record number. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services' unemployment benefits website was still struggling to accommodate the flood of new applications today.
Earlier this week, state legislators passed a bill that, among other measures, expanded those benefits, pushed back the state's income tax deadline and authorized DeWine to tap into Ohio's $3.6 billion rainy day fund.
More help is coming shortly, federal elected officials say.
Shortly before DeWine's briefing, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a massive $2 trillion economic aid package aimed at helping Americans "weather the storm," as U.S Sen. Rob Portman put it today.
That aid package includes a $1,200 stimulus check for all working-age Americans making up to $75,000 a year. The benefit diminishes in value above that income bracket and phases out entirely for those making more than $99,000 a year. It also includes $500 for each dependent child in a family.
The measure also shores up unemployment benefits administered by the states and includes an expansion of the Small Business Administration's emergency loan program. Businesses with less than 500 employees will be able to access loans for up to two and a half months of their payroll expenses to pay employees, rent and other expenses. So long as they keep their employment levels at pre-crisis levels, the loans would be forgivable.
Another $4.3 billion in the aid package will go to state and local health departments to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
Ohio is slated to get $1.5 billion directly as part of that overall aid package, Portman said today.