COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during a Monday briefing on the state's coronavirus response announced a new order extending the state's closure of all K-12 schools from April 3 to May 1. He didn't rule out a further extension, as the state's virus response remains fluid.
"We want to take this kind of one chunk at a time. We don't know exactly where we're going to be but it's clear we're not going to be back in the classroom before May 1," DeWine said. "Is it possible that we'll have to continue the way it is now until the end of the school year? Yes, it is. That's certainly possible. We just don't know yet."
DeWine said some Ohio superintendents have expressed concern that their students would be "further behind," adding that not all districts have the same distance-learning capabilities. The governor said some of Ohio's $4.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding includes money for schools, though it's not clear how it can be used.
Gen. John Harris Jr., Ohio Adjutant General of the Ohio National Guard, said uniformed guardsmen and women would be in local communities "in increasing numbers" soon as the virus' spread is projected to meet its peak between late April to mid-May. Service members plan to meet with regional virus response leaders to ensure all the state's available resources are "in the right place at the right time," such as personal protective equipment, which is facing extreme demand.
DeWine applauded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision Sunday night to fully approve the use of new technology that could sterilize up to 160,000 N95 masks in Ohio, allowing them to be re-used and conserved. The company will be ramping up that output as it receives the masks from hospitals, which is expected to begin tomorrow, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said.
DeWine also said inmates in Ohio prisons have been put to work making PPE. It's projected the effort could create as many as 4,000 hospital gowns, 5,000 surgical masks and 1,400 gallons of hand sanitizer.
Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio Department of Health director, said one of the National Guard's jobs is to work with hospital CEOs to double the state's PPE inventory.
The other job is to rapidly expand the state's hospital capacity, currently at an average 54 percent, she said. The state's ventilator use is currently at about 30 percent, she said.
Of the state's 1,933 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, about a quarter have required hospitalization, including 8 percent in intensive care units where ventilators are used, Acton said.