COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) -- Gov. Mike DeWine addressed several important topics Wednesday including how to get the state back to business, improving unemployment, early inmate release to promote social distancing at prisons, and how to tackle a shortage of components for COVID-19 test kits.
Getting back to business
- Gov. DeWine says he’s asked the Ohio Hospital Association to come up with a plan to begin treating patients whose non-coronavirus procedures were delayed or deferred because of the pandemic.
- The Ohio Department of Health previously ordered that elective surgeries be postponed to expand hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients and to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE).
- The governor asked to have that plan within one week.
- He also asked each industry in the state to put plans together in regard to how they would protect employees and customers when they are allowed to open up
- In addition, the governor wants essential businesses that have been open to help come up with best practices.
- He says the state has to figure out how the safest way possible for businesses, schools, and citizens to emerge from the stay-at-home order
- “I’ve felt all along that, as Governor, we have to tell people what we know, when we know it. We will continue to do that. The sad truth is that we’ve won the battle, it appears we’ve flattened the curve, but the monster is still out there," DeWine said.
- Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) will begin processing the additional $600 a week payments authorized by the federal CARES ACT by the end of the week.
- ODJFS also plans to launch an online tool that will allow self-employed, 1099 workers get in line early so that as soon as the department has the technological ability to process their claims, those workers will already have their paperwork in and be in line for review. ODJFS expects to be able to begin processing those claims by May 15.
- Husted says he believes everyone at ODJFS understands that their customer service must get better and says they will continue to make improvements to the unemployment system.
- Gov. DeWine says the unemployment system was built in 2004 and is very outdated in terms of technology.
- He says the system worked pre-pandemic. There were 42 people in the call center. Now there are 1,194 people taking calls and that still is not enough. The ODJFS is adding more staff as fast as they can.
- More claims were filed in the last month than in the past two years, the governor said.
- Lt. Gov. Husted reminded people to visit coronavirus.ohio.gov where there are 669 employers with 41,433 jobs available
- Gov. DeWine says there were two more inmates deaths at the Pickaway Correctional facility and they’re waiting for test results to know for sure whether they had the coronavirus.
- Last week, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) director recommended to the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) that certain inmates be released to allow for increased social distancing between prison staff and inmates.
- Yesterday, the CIIC recommended that Gov. DeWine move forward with approving the early release of specific inmates.
- Anyone convicted of sex offenses, homicide-related offenses, kidnapping, abduction, ethnic intimidation, making terroristic threats, and domestic violence was eliminated.
- Also screened out were those inmates who have been denied judicial release in the past, have prior incarceration in Ohio, are inter-state offenders, have warrants or detainers, and those who have serious prison rule violations within the last five years
- Early Wednesday, Gov. DeWine approved the early release of 105 inmates who had been scheduled to be released in the next 90 days. Each inmate was tested to determine if they have COVID-19 before release.
- The governor also authorized the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to use these criteria to identify other inmates who were scheduled for release within 90 days who may qualify for release.
- Ohio dropped its overall prison population by 311 inmates last week because of the efforts of the local courts to reduce their jail populations and to hold only critical hearings, Gov. DeWine said.
First responder PPE
- The Ohio Department of Public Safety and Battelle have partnered to sanitize N-95 masks for all of Ohio’s first responders. Battelle is providing the service for free.
- Beginning this Friday, local law enforcement and EMS agencies can bring their packaged N-95 masks to any Ohio State Highway Patrol post in the state
- OSHP will take the masks to Battelle in Columbus to be sanitized OSHP and bring them back to be picked up.
- The patrol will send out guidelines to local law enforcement and EMS agencies soon on how the masks must be packaged
Shortage of COVID-19 test kit components
- Gov. DeWine says there is a critical shortage of COVID-19 test kit components, including the swabs used to collect samples and the sterile solution needed to transport the swabs
- A team of Ohio State University researchers created an in-house “recipe” to make the liquid transport medium
- Ohio State is part of the academic-industry-government consortium led by Harvard, the U.S. Amry, and the University of South Florida that rapidly deployed a design and testing program for 3D printed testing swabs.
- The governor says OSU is working with 3D manufacturing companies, including FormLabs, Inc. in Toledo, and academic institutes across the state to manufacture the swabs and swab kits in significant amounts.
- The first order of 15,000 3D printed swabs for COVID-19 test kits will be delivered to Ohio State, with a target of 200,000 swabs and swab kits, allowing more people to be tested by the end of April.
- The Ohio Department of Health’s Dr. Amy Acton ruled some time ago that no elective surgeries should take place
- Gov. DeWine says there was a concern that hospitals would be overcrowded and there would be a lack of PPE
- He says he wants to make it clear that hospital procedures were not limited because hospitals are not safe. It’s because of the PPE problem.
- The Census is held every ten years to help determine how federal funds will be divided among the states.
- The funding pays for expenses for such as road repairs and food assistance programs.
- It also determines Ohio’s number of representatives in the U.S. House.
- According to Gov. DeWine, Ohio’s response rate is higher than the national average and higher than all of our neighboring states except Michigan. Ohio’s rate is 52.2%, the national average is 48.6%, and Michigan’s rate is 55%
- The governor is urging people to complete their census forms if they haven’t already.
- Information was sent in the mail about how to complete the form, or you can visit 2020Census.gov or call 1-844-330-2020.
As of Wednesday, Ohio had 7,791 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 361 deaths.