COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s daily news conference took a somber turn Friday afternoon when he announced that not only did Ohio have its first death from coronavirus, but the 76-year-old man who died was a personal friend of his and Lt. Governor John Husted.
First coronavirus death in Ohio
The man, Mark Wagoner, Sr., 76, was an attorney from the Toledo area and a husband, father and grandfather.
"When we hear about these deaths in other states and in Ohio, most of the time we don’t know that individual. It will be another number. It is important to remember each time we hear about new death to remember it's someone who was loved, lived their life and wanted to live longer," DeWine said on Friday during his daily coronavirus update.
DeWine signaled hope to all Ohioans despite the announcement. "For a while it is going to seem like we are living in the 'valley of the shadow,' but we will get through this," he said. "The sun will come out and shine upon our state. Our beautiful Ohio."
DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton both took a moment to thank the health care workers and those people who have stepped up across the state to help people in need.
“I want to thank all our first responders and everyone in the medical community,” DeWine said. They’ve been working so hard to prepare. They are our heroes, and we are so grateful.”
Acton said healthcare workers don’t get enough recognition for the jobs they do and, in some cases, have been stigmatized for working in high-risk areas and helping others.
“Our frontline healthcare workers, these are the everyday heroes I’m talking about,” Acton said. “We need to support them.
How local hospitals are doing
According to Acton, Ohio hospitals are currently around 70% capacity and as such, have some room to handle a surge of new patients. “If we slow down and flatten that curve, it gives our hospitals and nursing homes the best chance to ride this out comfortably," Acton said.
The Ohio Department of Health is also working with local hospitals to do an inventory of all needed medical supplies so that they know what additional items need to be requested from the federal government.
DeWine said he was will sign an executive order Friday that will go into effect on Monday to close all facilities that provide adult day care services. He is also closing community senior centers.
“I’m assured that each center has taken care to ensure that those who depend on food will get it,” DeWine said. “It will be delivered to their homes.”
DeWine said his decision was based on the concerns and dangers older folks face because they are so often in close proximity to one another in those facilities.
Bad/good business practices
DeWine spoke about unnamed businesses that are causing issues during the pandemic.
According to DeWine, some businesses have been “recklessly risking the lives of their employees, their families and everyone those employees come into contact with."
“This must stop,” DeWine said. “Do what is right.”
Husted outlines some business practices that would benefit employees, customers and the public at large:
- Take employee temperatures
- Have dedicated cleaning crews
- Remove chairs from areas where people congregate
- Send home people who don’t feel well
- Split employees into day and evening shifts
- Ban larger gatherings of employees
- Mare sure hand sanitizer is readily available
- Eliminate the work gathering space—such as around the coffee maker
- Don’t share equipment that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned.
- Encourage hand washing
Husted spoke about a recent incident at a grocery store where two customers got into a brawl over toilet paper.
“Come on folks, we have to be better than that,” Husted said. “We have to treat each other better than that.”
Shelter in place
DeWine was asked if he would issue an order to “shelter in place,” to which he responded by saying that even though there isn’t a specific order, he has been asking every Ohioan to do that. In days prior, DeWine has repeatedly urged Ohio residents to stay inside and not venture out except to get groceries or to go outside for some solitary exercise such as hiking.
Ohio’s primary election
According to DeWine, he wants to ensure voters across the state get ample time to vote. “I think that at a minimum, we would want a significant enough time to be able to obtain and return absentee ballots,” he said. “We don’t want to do this overnight, at the same time, we are doing this when a war is going on. Having enough time is very important."
Ratio of male to female patients
Acton said her team is looking at a lot of data from places like China to see if the ratios of male patients and female patients are similar.
Currently, out of the 169 cases in Ohio, 100 of those individuals are male, with the other 69 being female.
Right now, Acton said there isn’t enough data to draw conclusions about why the number of male patients is higher than females.
Husted announced that the Ohio Department of Insurance would be issuing an order that will allow employers “to take care of its employees with a grace period for insurance premiums.”
According to Husted, employers across the state will be able to defer premium payments for health insurance for up to 60 days.
Acton was asked if the state can expect to see more deaths from COVID-19.
State officials have said for days now that they knew it was only a matter of time before Ohio reported its first death. That’s why it’s important to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus so medical professionals aren't overwhelmed with cases and to help medical professionals have the capacity to help people in need.
“We knew this would happen. I think we will see more,” Acton said. “Every single life matters. We will be with you through this every step of the way.”
When asked if people should be scared, DeWine said, “We can’t panic over this. We will be doing this for a while. Come up with a routine for how you want to live that is consistent with the new reality that we have to live under.”
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Ohio, a timeline of Governor Mike DeWine's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Northeast Ohio, and link to more information from the Ohio Department of Health, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the CDC and the WHO.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.