DeWine: State Still Working to Gather Personal Protective Equipment

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WYSO) — At his press conference on Wednesday, Governor Mike DeWine made a public plea to Ohio’s hospitals, asking them to save their N95 protective masks so they can be decontaminated.

Rather than discard masks after use, the Columbus-based Battelle research organization has developed a new method of decontaminating the protective devices so they can be reused.

Ohio’s healthcare organizations are suffering from a critical shortage of protective supplies, including gloves, face shields, masks and respirators. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given Battelle emergency authorization to use the new technology during this crisis.

“Every mask is precious,” DeWine said. “You’re denying somebody else a mask,” when responders and hospitals workers throw the masks away instead of recycling them, he said.

DeWine also announced a major gift of protective supplies — 100,000 N95 masks from the Apple computer company. DeWine said he thanked Apple CEO Tim Cook personally on the phone last night, while walking on his farm in Greene County.

The governor said the state is also looking to get the equipment it needs by other means, including trying to get a shipment in from China.

Prison Worker Dies

A corrections officer at Marion Correctional Institution has died from COVID-19.

DeWine said 55-year-old John Dawson, from Mansfield, tested positive for the coronavirus on March 30. The officer had an underlying health condition.

Dawson was the second officer to test positive for the virus in the Marion facility.

48 Ohio prison staff members have tested positive, along with 17 inmates. DeWine said “aggressive” testing is happening in the prisons.

“Mr. Dawson’s death reminds us that, as we celebrate the fact that Ohio is doing comparatively well, we are still seeing a large number of deaths,” DeWine said. “People are dying every single day.”

Numbers Continue to Rise

As of Wednesday morning, there have now been at least 193 deaths due to COVID-19 in Ohio, Dr. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health said. Those numbers are predicted to rise.

So far, there have been 5,148 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, along with 1,495 hospitalizations and 472 ICU admissions.

“More people went to the hospital. More people died than the day before,” said Lt. Governor John Husted. “And those aren’t models. Those are real people. Those are people with families, people with loved ones. And we deeply, deeply care about what happens to them — and that we know we are in a battle that has to be won.”

Unemployment and Childcare

Kimberly Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, said Wednesday that the state has already paid out $124 million in COVID-related unemployment claims to about 195,000 Ohioans.

She said the department’s primary goal right now is staffing up to meet the unprecedented surge in claims they are receiving.

The unemployment call center is now open seven days a week. By the end of this week, Hall said ODJFS will have 1,000 people taking calls.

Hall said the department is also responding in other ways. Additional SNAP benefits are being provided, and the pandemic childcare program for essential workers has already enrolled nearly 27,000 children.