Ohio announces 3 positive tests as state’s 1st virus cases
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio on Monday announced the state’s first confirmed cases of the new coronavirus that has sickened people around the globe, a development Gov. Mike DeWine had been warning would come for several days.
Three people have tested positive for the virus, all in Cuyahoga County in northeastern Ohio, DeWine and Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton said at a late afternoon news conference.
All three — a husband and wife who were on a Nile cruise, and a man who attended the America Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C. — are in their mid-50s and are from Cuyahoga County.
They are all isolated at home, said Terry Allan, the Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner.
The state Health Department said the cases were confirmed as part of testing done last week. Eight people had previously tested negative after exhibiting symptoms of pulmonary virus either after travel to China or coming into contact with someone with the disease known as COVID-19, according to Health Department records.
An investigation is underway to identify and reach out as many people as possible who have come in contact with the three people who tested positive.
“This is certainly no ordinary time,” DeWine said. “It’s important for us to take aggressive action to protect Ohioans. And the actions that we take now will in fact save lives. That we are sure of.”
Meanwhile, Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake issued a statement late Monday canceling classes saying the best way to prevent the spread of viral illness is to minimize the circumstances in which individuals may interact and transmit disease.
“We are suspending face-to-face instruction in lectures, discussion sections, seminars and other similar classroom settings and moving to virtual instruction, effective immediately and through at least Monday, March 30,” the statement said. All university-sponsored international travel is also suspended.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.
DeWine declared a state of emergency, an action which allows the state to buy health-related supplies without first seeking bids. He also banned unnecessary travel by state employees and canceled a state insurance fund for injured workers’ conference which was scheduled to bring 8,000 to Columbus beginning Wednesday.
Around 75 voting locations in nursing homes will be moved for the March 17 primary, DeWine said. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, a former Ohio secretary of state, urged people to vote early or by absentee ballot if possible.
Asked about expected rallies Tuesday by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in Columbus and Cleveland ahead of the primary, DeWine said people had a First Amendment right to attend but should also exercise care. Candidate Bernie Sanders also has a rally planned for Cleveland on Tuesday.
“A gathering of a lot of people probably is not a great idea,” DeWine said.
Acton said people should restrict contact with those deemed vulnerable to the disease, who can include the elderly, people with lung and heart disease, people whose immune systems may be compromised, and people who are severely overweight.
People who live in households with vulnerable people should treat themselves as if they have the disease and take appropriate precautions, Acton said.
“People do need to know that it won’t be life as normal in this country for a while,” Acton said.
Gillispie reported from Cleveland.
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