CINCINNATI (FOX19) - On Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced schools in Ohio will remain in session remotely for the rest of the school year.
“We balanced many issues in arriving at this decision. In the end, I believe this is what is best to protect the health of our children, our teachers, and our administrators,” Governor DeWine said.
“I want to take a moment to thank all of our teachers and school administrators and support staff, such as our kitchen staff, bus drivers, and maintenance workers. You are all our heroes. I want to thank all of the parents as well,” he said.
There has been no decision made about the fall.
“I know parents, teachers, and administrators are anxious about an answer about the fall, but we’re not in the position to make that decision yet,” DeWine said.
DeWine said in the fall students could use “blended learning” when school starts up again, which is a mix of online and in-person learning.
“I know that schools and superintendents and educators across Ohio are working on some very innovative solutions as they continue to plan for next year,” he said.
He noted he has concerns about kids with special needs, health challenges, no internet access and children without a supportive home life.
As far as end-of-the-year activities, DeWine said he’s not telling schools how to do it, but reminded that gathering a significant number of people is dangerous.
“So just as schools have been innovative in how to teach from a distance, I know they will be innovative as they find a way to honor students,” he said. “School end-of-the-year activities like graduation, band camp, sporting events, etc. This is part of the sadness of all of this. I know with our kids and grandkids, the end of the year is particularly important.”
There has been no decision made on daycares.
“For the same reason we don’t want schools meeting in person - it’s the same concern for daycares. It’s a number of kids together who then go back home - it’s a perfect recipe for spread. We’re not ready yet to open up more daycares yet,” DeWine said.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, there are 12,919 cases and 509 deaths.
Over the past five days, Ohio has averaged 864 new cases each day.
DeWine says African Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and said the numbers already show it’s hitting them harder.
ODH data shows 21 percent of cases are African American although they make up approximately 14% of Ohio’s population.
The governor announced that he has formed a new Minority Health Strike Force.
“We must recognize that there are many Ohioans who have an increased risk of being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and we must do everything we can to protect all Ohioans from this pandemic,” Governor DeWine said.
He said while balancing transparency and individual privacy rights, the state will begin to report aggregate death data for nursing homes and assisted living facilities at the county level.
“The reporting module will need to be modified to accurately collect this information, so I expect the reporting on deaths at long-term care facilities by county to begin next week,” DeWine said
DeWine acknowledged that Ohioans are also concerned about how COVID-19 is impacting healthcare facilities.
“Our current data collection tool has limitations, and I have directed the Ohio Department of health to modify the system to accurately collect case information for individuals who are in direct care providers at hospitals, including the name of the hospital where they work,” he said.
In regard to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the data collected will include COVID-19 cases broken down by the number of residents and staff who have tested positive for the virus by facility and county. Data will be posted to coronavirus.ohio.gov every Wednesday.
The ODH had previously issued an order prohibiting hospitals from sending COVID-19 testing samples to private labs due to slow turnaround time.
Gov. DeWine announced Monday that LabCorp and Quest currently have no backlog of samples and have added more testing capacity.
In response, the ODH will again allow hospitals to use commercial labs in addition to hospital labs performing COVID-19 testing.
DeWine said he “highly recommends everyone who goes out in public to wear masks.”
“It makes perfect sense for people to start wearing masks. I know culturally this is not something we’ve done before, but I think it is clearly the right thing to do, along with social distancing,” he said. “It can become a fashion statement. We can have a little fun with this because there is no doubt it is the right thing to do. Remember, however, that masks are not a replacement for social distancing.”
DeWine called on the federal government to help provide crucial materials that would allow a dramatic increase in testing for coronavirus in his state - and later reported a “very positive” response from the agency concerned.
He said help from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would allow him to “probably double, maybe even triple testing in Ohio virtually overnight."