HUNTINGTON — As numbers of coronavirus cases rapidly increase throughout Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said there needs to be a recommitment and dedication to the safety measures that limited those numbers in the early stages of the pandemic.
In a visit to the Huntington Jet Center, the governor said current trends of the coronavirus in the state and the region should be of great concern as Ohio reached record highs in cases last week.
Waiting for a vaccine projected to be ready by late December, DeWine said Ohioans will have to get back to the basics: masks, avoiding crowds, regular cleaning of the hands, and maintaining social distancing.
“We don’t want to close businesses down, we want to keep our kids in school, but to do those things, we have to slow down other things,” said DeWine, seeing traveling for almost exclusively essential trips as a solution.
Another shutdown is not what he wants at this point, but current trends could do just that. The governor said during a Thursday news conference that a decision regarding closures of fitness centers, bars, and restaurants would be made Nov. 19.
“We don’t want to shut the state down that has ramifications for mental health, drug addiction and overdoses,” said DeWine. “All those things go up when there’s a shutdown.”
The correlation between the shutdown and addiction has been a concern of public health experts, where isolation and poor economic times could worsen an already grave issue plaguing the region.
DeWine, a Cedarville resident and Holzer Health CEO Dr. Michael Canady said rural areas were mostly spared during the warm summer months, but that a combination of “covid fatigue” and a lack of mask-wearing has caused a reversal.
“That has changed dramatically,” said Canady, adding that thankfully deaths and hospitalizations have yet to follow suit, but often lag behind in two-week intervals. “We see no end in sight.”
Such as been the case in the county, numbers from the Portsmouth City and Scioto County Health Departments revealing a trend repeated in counties across the state. The latest report, spanning between Saturday and Monday, added 124 cases bringing the total to 1,567 since the outbreak began.
At the beginning of July, there were 36 total coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. By the end of the month, there were 183, meaning that the average was 4.7 new confirmed cases per day.
Last week, the county added nearly as many cases as it did for all of July. Nearly 29 cases per day and four more deaths were added between Nov. 9 and 13. Only one death occurred in July.
An understanding that virus is only an issue in big cities perhaps led to this change throughout southeastern Ohio, said Canady. This was the case in the early stages of the pandemic, but now 68 out of the state’s 88 counties are at a Level Three on the Ohio Department of Health’s Public Health Advisory System.
“It is not a virus that has predilection for big cities and large communities,” he said. “It will go anywhere.”
The governor’s visit comes the same day as ODH released a revised mass gathering order. This updated mandate presents new restrictions for events like wedding receptions, funeral repasts and other banquet events, but does not apply First Amendment protected forms of speech.
- No socializing or activities in open congregate areas and no dancing
- Guests must be seated at all times. Traditional wedding reception events such as first dance, toasts, and cutting the cake are permitted
- If serving food and beverages, guests must be served at their seats. No self-serve buffets permitted and no self-serve bar areas
- Masks must be worn at all times unless actively consuming food or beverages
- No more than 10 people seated to a table, and those individuals must be from the same household.
The news of promising preliminary trials of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is welcomed by both, as a gateway for normalcy’s return could be around the corner. Canady said the tried-and-true ways of slowing the spread would allow more to see a future where the virus was tamed.
“We will get back to a normal way of living,” said Canady, these vaccines still a few months away from being ready for widespread distribution. “My hope is that we have as many of our family members and friends with us to live that normal life again.”
Aware of concerns that the vaccine was developed too quickly and an existing anti-vax movement before the pandemic, DeWine said they can wait for further results, as the state plans to distribute the vaccine first to nursing home workers.
“We’re going to need, frankly, a significant number of Ohioans to take this if we’re going to get out of this,” he said, asking for trust in the Food and Drug Administration. “We get out of this and return to our regular lives by the vaccine.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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