98 percent of confirmed virus cases at Ohio jail were asymptomatic, officials say

Gov. DeWine gives update on state’s coronavirus response
Updated: Apr. 30, 2020 at 1:42 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - According to the Ohio Department of Health, there are 18,027 cases and 975 deaths due to COVID-19 in the state.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine had announced that 4.1 million pieces of PPE had been sent to local EMA’s across the state. On Thursday, he spoke about PPE in corrections facilities.

According to DeWine, the state has delivered more than 1.1 million of pieces of PPE that included 108,000 N95 masks, 256,000 gloves, 684,000 procedure masks, 10,000 provider gowns and 100,000 cloth masks for inmates.

“Our corrections employees at state prisons are on the front line every day, and we want to do what we can to help keep them safe,” he said.

Annette Chambers-Smith, the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said their pandemic plan was created in 2009.

She says ODRC has implemented safeguards for inmates, including increasing hygiene products and sanitation materials, offering cloth face coverings and preventing intermingling between inmate cohorts.

Social distancing measures have also been implemented by expanding housing units into prison chapels and gyms.

“Ohio was the first state to do mass testing. We did this in three facilities. We learned valuable information from this that is helping us move our plan forward as we do testing,” she said.

Dr. Michael Para with OSU said the mass testing was a critical step.

“A large number were positive, but what is amazing is how many people were positive and had no symptoms at all. They were feeling fine,” he said.

Mass testing at the Marion Correctional Institution, for example, revealed that approximately 96 percent of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic, Chambers-Smith added.

Para said clinicians looked at what they had found and they are now testing the people who were negative to see if they have turned positive.

“Going forward we are going to test specific individuals who are showing symptoms, who are being released, etc.,” he said. “By testing inmates on release, we can notify local health departments whether or not a person is COVID-19 positive.”

On Thursday, DeWine asked the state’s departments of education and health to issue guidance for schools to follow as they celebrate the class of 2020.

“When we look at whether to hold a graduation... social distancing must be first and foremost,” he said.

The Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Health recommends the following:

  • Virtual graduation ceremonies (preferred)
  • Drive-in ceremonies where students drive to a designated location at a designated time to get their diplomas
  • An outdoor event with 10 people or less at a time, who are socially distanced, where a graduate can receive his or her diploma

“Ohio has 612 school districts. Each school district must work with their local health department to make sure that their plan is in accordance with public health guidelines to deal with the pandemic,” DeWine said.

Of equal concern is graduation parties, he said.

“This is tough this year, and I would ask people to remember - graduation parties can pose as much - or more - of a risk as a graduation. Our guidelines are no more than 10 people,” DeWine said.

A phased-in reopening of Ohio will begin in May, DeWine announced on Monday.

Starting on May 1, Gov. DeWine says healthcare services can begin to reopen:

  • All health procedures or operations that do not require overnight stays can be performed
  • Dental procedures can resume
  • Veterinarians

On May 4, construction, manufacturing, and distribution can begin but need to follow strict guidelines

Also on May 4, general office environments can reopen:

  • Governor asks businesses to continue having employees work from home if possible.

Consumer and retail services can reopen on May 12.

  • Every retail service will also have to follow strict guidelines put in place.

“To businesses that are planning to open prior to May 12: We’re trying to phase openings in. We’re trying to continue to buy us some time so that we don’t have the curve going straight up again. We would say if you open up early, it’s a mistake. We hope people will follow the law,” DeWine said.

DeWine said though they will not mandate face-coverings, business owners can still require customers to wear masks.

“Though it is not a mandate, wearing a face-covering in retail locations is clearly in the best interest of all Ohioans. This gives added protection to others. When you wear a mask, you are protecting those around you from possibly getting sick," he said.

Face coverings will still be required for employees unless it is not advisable by a healthcare professional, goes against industry best practices, or is not permitted by federal or state laws and regulations.

Daily testing numbers are also expected to increase week-by-week in May, DeWine pointed out on Monday.

ODH estimates 14,725 daily tests starting on May 6.

Three weeks later, ODH estimates daily testing amounts to be at 22,275 tests.

“Things are opening up, but we still have to be careful. COVID-19 is out there, it’s not going away for a while. We’re going to do innovative things with testing and tracing - but the way it spreads is the same,” DeWine said.

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