There are 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus COVID-19 in Ohio, though many more cases are probably going undetected, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said today.
That number includes four cases discovered by UC Health at its West Chester facility — the first confirmed in Greater Cincinnati.
Those cases started as far back as Feb. 25. There have been no deaths so far.
"Our best judgement, based on our medical experts, is that the coronavirus is already all over Ohio," DeWine said.
DeWine's announcement comes after revelations earlier in the week that the state is seeing so-called "community spread," or cases in which people have contracted the virus without traveling to countries with outbreaks or coming in contact with other confirmed cases.
Yesterday, Acton said there could be 100,000 undiagnosed cases in the state, though today she called that an estimate based on the virus' spread elsewhere.
She said the state is now firmly in mitigation phase, racing to contain the virus before its spread overwhelms medical facilities and other vital systems. Between 40 and 70 percent of populations who have seen spread of the virus end up contracting it, Acton said.
About 80 percent of those people experience no or mild symptoms. About five percent need hospitalization.
"It's early, targeted and layered interventions," she said of measures the state has unrolled this week. "Timing is everything."
"It's like Swiss cheese," she said of mitigation personal and larger-scale mitigation measures. "It has a lot of holes. But if you layer pieces on top of each other, you're getting more impact."
Acton recommended that those who are sick or who live with someone who is sick should stay home. She also recommended keeping six feet between yourself and other people, frequently washing your hands and avoiding touching your face.
"All these things matter," she said.
In addition to four reported cases identified by UC Health in Butler County, another five reported cases were reported today in Cleveland.
"Our physicians, nurses, caregivers, and staff are continuing to take appropriate precautions to protect all patients and staff in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines," UC Health said in a statement today. "If someone is experiencing symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath and have experienced some exposure risk factor such as travel or close contact with another sick person, we ask that that person call their physician’s office, or the Ohio Department of Health at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634) before visiting an emergency room or a doctor’s office. This line is monitored 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
"As always, if someone requires a true emergency response, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department and upon arrival immediately advise that you believe you are experiencing symptoms before entering a crowded waiting area," the statement concludes.
In the past week, DeWine's administration has issued a number of directives aimed at slowing the spread of the virus that have brought many aspects of daily life to a crawl, including an order that most gatherings of more than 100 people be canceled and that K-12 schools cease face-to-face learning for three weeks.
That will likely create big ripples in the economy. DeWine says the state is working on ways to support workers and small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
"We have in the last few days announced some very tough measures for the people of ohio," DeWine said. "We're going to do everything we can to build help, build support and build systems to help people get through what will be very tough times over the next few weeks, maybe the next few months."
Local elected officials have asked DeWine to extend unemployment benefits for hourly workers who lose wages due to shutdowns, to order a halt on utility shutoffs and evictions, to find funds to support small businesses struggling with slowdowns or closures.
DeWine said the United States Department of Agriculture has granted Ohio waivers so that free and reduced-cost breakfast and lunches for low-income students can continue at schools that are temporarily closed.
The governor also said he expected school work would continue whenever possible.
"No matter how long this is, education needs to continue for our young people in Ohio," DeWine said. "We expect our schools to keep the learning going."
Efforts to do so could include online learning, DeWine said, though he admitted not every school is capable of that. He said those schools will have to improvise.