COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s been six weeks since the Coronavirus started to become a concern internationally, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine addressed the public on the state of the State’s preparedness to deal with an outbreak.
Currently, there are no confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in Ohio.
More than 200 people have entered the state from China since voluntary quarantine measures have been put into place and many of them have completed that isolation. So far, seven people have been tested for the virus and none of them have tested positive.
In the meantime, DeWine says, a greater threat is the normal flu. In the past three weeks, 10 people have died from the flu. Since the first of the year, two young people have died including a teenager and a child both being girls.
He also doesn’t know if that level of threat will always be the same and is asking all Ohioans to treat the threat of Coronavirus with urgency.
To lead the way, DeWine ordered state agencies to take proactive steps to inform the public of the importance of washing their hands, and wells as increase efforts to disinfect common areas in government buildings.
He is also asking colleges and universities to do a number of things, including urging all students, faculty, and staff to get a flu shot immediately if they have not received one yet. He would like to see colleges to prohibit travel to certain countries as advised by the CDC and to assist students in learning abroad to come home if they need to.
He went another step further and made a plea to the private sector and to schools to be flexible with their employees and their sick time so they could take the appropriate steps to prevent the spread of disease at a time when the Coronavirus can easily be mistaken for the common flu.
Director of the Ohio Department of Health Dr. Amy Acton put things into perspective when it comes to the danger the virus poses.
“It’s a little more dangerous than the flu, but it’s not as dangerous as things we seen in the past like you have dealt with here, like Ebola or SARS or MRSA,” said Acton.
Back in 2014, Ohio had a case of Ebola come through the area which caused a stir that resulted in several hospitals seeking to become better prepared for contagious diseases. Acton says the public reaction to Coronavirus reminds her of the H1N1 virus.
Using H1N1 as a comparison, Acton says we are in for a long haul; especially with a vaccine for Coronavirus still about a year away.
Acton says right now health officials are approaching this issue from a prevention stance to delay the spread as much as possible. While Acton would not say the spread of Coronavirus is inevitable, she did say it is likely it will eventually make its way to Ohio. She provided the same preventative techniques applied to the flu for ways to keep yourself and your family safe; wash your hand, cover your cough, avoid contact when sick.
When the state begins to have cases of Coronavirus, DeWine says you will know about it. “My commitment is that we will communicate what we know when we know it,” said DeWine. DeWine and state officials do not want people to be scared, they want them to be prepared. That is why they have created a website where anyone can go to get information about Coronavirus that will be updated as the Health Department learns more.
Acton says they are learning things about Coronavirus seemingly hour by hour. You can find the website at Coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Finally, Acton made a few recommendations for getting through the next few months.
Go get cold and flu medicine now, before you are sick so you don’t have to go to the store when you are. Have two-weeks worth of your regular medications on hand. Have two-weeks worth of food on hand for you, your family, and your pets. Develop a plan for what you will do if your kids get sick.
Develop a plan for making sure your parents and grandparents have what they need in place in case they get sick.
DeWine says, if we take the steps described above and do the things he recommends fewer people will be exposed to illnesses in general.
“Doing these things is the prudent thing to do, it’s not an alarmist thing to do. It’s not you know thinking anything other than let’s minimize the risk for every Ohioan; let’s save lives,” said DeWine.