Gov. Mike DeWine
[Office of Gov. Mike DeWine]

Ohio Confirms First Inmate Death; DeWine Issues New Orders for Nursing Homes, Liquor Sale

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKSU) — Ohio health officials Monday confirmed an inmate died from COVID-19 at Pickaway Correctional Institution — the first reported inmate death in the state.

More than a dozen of Pickaway’s staff members are out sick. Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday he plans to send up to 30 members of the National Guard to the facility to help with COVID-19 patients.

Out of the nearly 270 inmates who have been tested, 67  have the disease. Nearly 17,000 inmates across the state are in quarantine, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

Ohio has reported 6,975 cases of COVID-19 statewide and 274 deaths. These numbers include confirmed as well as probable cases and deaths under a new definition by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

New order for nursing homes
More than 45 of those deaths have occurred in Ohio’s nursing homes. Gov. Mike DeWine announced a new order Monday requiring long-term care facilities to notify families within 24 hours if a resident or staff member has tested positive for the disease. Although ODH has encouraged facilities to do this in the past, it is now a requirement.

Dr. Amy Acton, the director of ODH, said the state also plans to release a list of nursing homes with confirmed cases, but she warned Ohioans not to blame the nursing homes.

“It’s not the fault of nursing homes,” Acton said. “It is the fact that this disease is so contagious.”

Acton said nursing homes are hotspots just like prisons and the state will continue to monitor the cases.

Changes in liquor sales
DeWine is also issuing an order restricting liquor sales in the following counties:

  • Ashtabula
  • Columbiana
  • Trumbull
  • Mahoning
  • Columbiana
  • Jefferson
  • Belmont

Those wanting to buy alcohol in those counties must have a valid Ohio driver’s license, or other proof of residence in the state, such as a bill or a letter from an employer. DeWine said it’s because many Pennsylvania residents are crossing the border to get alcohol. More than 600 state-owned liquor stores in Pennsylvania were shut down last month due to coronavirus concerns.

“This is something that we will continue to monitor,” DeWine said. “If there are additional counties that have a significant number of people coming from out of state, we will take further action when necessary.”

Funding for foodbanks
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also announced Monday that $5 million in emergency funding will be going to 12 Ohio foodbanks, which have seen high demand since the outbreak began.

An additional $1 million will go toward the Agricultural Clearance Program so the foodbanks can purchase Ohio-made products, such as milk. The Coalition on Homeless and Housing in Ohio will also receive $1 million to ensure safe, clean environments inside facilities.

COVID-19 outlook for Ohio
Despite cases increasing each day, Acton said it is not as many as initially predicted. She said the social distancing is working, especially the use of masks.

“Don your masks, and don your capes,” Acton said. She added that Ohioans could be using the masks for another year.

Two weeks ago, health officials predicted a surge in cases starting around the end of April to mid-May, and said the state could be seeing 10,000 cases a day.

Last week, that number dropped significantly to a predicted peak of 1,600 cases per day. Acton said the goal is to get that number even lower.

“Everyone is all hands on deck, working as best as they can,” Acton said.