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State weighs issues of idled people vs. an idled economy

"The truth is that protecting people and protecting the economy are not mutually exclusive," Gov. Mike DeWine says as state hits 564 COVID-19 cases and the health chief warns that's "just the tip of the iceberg."
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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (left) and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton

COLUMBUS — Reporters asked Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday about what appeared to be mixed messages from the state administration, which is urging nonessential Ohioans to stay home, and President Donald Trump who has said he wants the economy "raring to go" by Easter (April 12).

"The frustration that [President Trump] has, I share that frustration," DeWine said. "The truth is that protecting people and protecting the economy are not mutually exclusive. In fact, one depends upon the other. The fact is we save our economy by first saving lives, and we have to do it in that order."

Officials also said the U.S. Department of Labor regulations are keeping state unemployment figures from being released daily, as Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has been doing during the state's daily briefings.

They'll now be released weekly, presumably to shield the marketplace from more uncertainty.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said the 564 confirmed cases of coronavirus across 49 Ohio counties — a 22-percent increase from Monday's report — are likely "just the tip of the iceberg," but said Ohioans who are staying home are helping keep the state's hospital system from becoming overwhelmed.

Without preventative measures, it's estimated the state would see about 6,000 new cases a day, she said.

"Clearly, that would quickly outpace our hospital capacity," Acton said.

Hospital capacity across the state is currently at about 60 percent, with about 6,000 medical or surgical beds still available and about 1,300 beds in intensive care units. State officials are working with healthcare providers to find ways to increase capacity by 50 percent, Acton said, suggesting that hotels and dormitories could soon be used as treatment space.

Acton also said the state has distributed all its extra personal protective gear across the state, which is being conserved for healthcare professionals and first responders. Gov. Mike DeWine said COVID-19's virulence has created extreme demand for the gear. On average, 36 pairs of gloves are used per patient, per day, he said.

"When we deploy PPE, we're doing it in boxes and cases, not truckloads," Acton said.

Health care workers account for about 16 percent of the state's total coronavirus infections, Acton said.

Below are the data Acton presented during Tuesday's briefing. To open a full-sized version, click the icon in the upper-right:

Elsewhere in the state and nation:

Western Reserve Transit Authority is eliminating all fixed bus routes in Mahoning and Trumbull counties on April 6, with the final runs set for April 4. WRTA is also eliminating Nightline routes serving Youngstown’s North Side, East Side, West Side and South Side as well as adjacent communities from 7:15 p.m. to about midnight Monday through Friday, effective March 30. The final Nightline runs are set for March 27. Starting March 30, WRTA will offer free, scheduled small bus service from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday to all areas of Mahoning County, and Monday through Friday to all areas of Trumbull County. For more information, call 330-744-8431 or go to WRTA’s website.

• The City of Youngstown asks that all trash be placed in curbside carts for disposal. As of Monday, any trash not bagged or in a city-supplied or personal trash cart will not be picked up. All sanitation routes will maintain regular pickup dates and times.

Mahoning County officials continue to update office hours and availability for various county services. For the latest update, visit Mahoning County's COVID-19 alert page here.

• The Mahoning County Sheriff's Office is continuing concealed carry licensing duties during regular times, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but by appointment only. The CCW licensing clerk has moved to the glass booth in the justice center's lobby for further protection from the spread of COVID-19. The office can also still perform background checks for hiring of essential employees, but by appointment only. Call 330-480-5030 to schedule an appointment for either.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, on Tuesday announced he's introducing legislation to invoke the Defense Production Act and designate businesses able to produce medical equipment — such as ventilators, masks and gloves needed to treat coronavirus patients — which is currently in short supply nationwide.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, announced Tuesday that a congressional spending package passed earlier this month includes $3.2 million in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funding to be released to 51 community health centers across the state, to "keep Ohioans health and safe in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic." Ohio North East Health Systems of Youngstown is set to receive about $67,000, while Community Action Agency of Columbiana County in Lisbon is set to receive about $63,000.

State Rep. Michael O'Brien of Warren, D-64th, and other Democratic legislators said Tuesday they're prioritizing emergency economic and public health measures such as expanding unemployment benefits and paid sick leave, tax relief to families and small businesses, a waiver for K-12 standardized testing and more.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he’s reconsidering his order to shutter liquor stores as part of the state’s coronavirus mitigation effort. Pennsylvania is the only state nationwide to close liquor stores, according to Chris Swonger, CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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