Gov. Mike DeWine offered a dire outlook on the state of the coronavirus pandemic during a visit to Cleveland last week, and urged Ohio residents to downsize their Thanksgiving plans and avoid other gatherings to help reduce transmission. St. Vincent Charity Medical Center Emergency Department Medical Director Carla O'Day appeared with DeWine during his visit. She said anecdotal evidence suggests Halloween may be partly to blame for the recent spike in cases and that many people may have been infected while attending Halloween parties.
Dr. O'Day also recently spoke to Ohio NPR reporter Karen Kasler about COVID for a story that ran on ideastream and several Ohio public radio stations.
By Evan MacDonald
Gov. Mike DeWine offered a dire outlook on the state of the coronavirus pandemic during a Wednesday visit to Cleveland, and urged Ohio residents to downsize their Thanksgiving plans and avoid other gatherings to help reduce transmission.
DeWine, speaking during a news conference at Burke Lakefront Airport, said Northeast Ohio has seen an alarming spike in COVID-19 infections over the past two weeks. Every area county is seeing cases spread at a rate that is more than three times what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as high risk. In Lake County, one out of every 100 residents has tested positive for the coronavirus within the past two weeks, DeWine said.
“Every county in Northeast Ohio is now literally on fire from this virus,” he said.
DeWine’s visit to Cleveland came on the heels of his announcement Tuesday of a statewide overnight curfew that will begin Thursday and last at least three weeks. The order will force businesses to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. but averts a broader shutdown. DeWine reiterated Wednesday that he is not planning to close bars and restaurants at this time.
DeWine said the curfew is among a series of recent orders, including a reissued face-mask mandate that redeploys state employees for compliance enforcement, are intended to “chip away” at the community spread he repeatedly described as a raging fire Wednesday in Cleveland. He said the current rate of transmission is not sustainable, and that if it continues, it could overwhelm the health care workers who have been stressed since the start of the pandemic.
“We’re asking people to slow down. We are in a slowdown, certainly for the next 21 days,” DeWine said. “If we slow down, if each one of us every single day cuts down on the number of contacts we have with other people, and if we wear a mask, we can knock this thing down.”
Anecdotal evidence suggests Halloween may be partly to blame for the recent spike in cases, said Dr. Carla O’Day, the medical director for the emergency department at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland. O’Day, who appeared with DeWine during his Cleveland visit, said many people may have been infected while attending Halloween parties.
Thanksgiving could be another critical juncture in Ohio, O’Day and DeWine warned. O’Day said she typically hosts a large dinner for 30 family members. That won’t be happening this year, because the risk of transmission is too great, she said.
“I’m going to miss it this year, but we’re not going to do it. It’s just too dangerous," she said.
DeWine said he chose to implement a curfew because there are downsides to a broader shutdown like the one he imposed on non-essential businesses back in the spring. He noted a shutdown could force some businesses to permanently close or lay off employees, increasing unemployment in the state. He also worried it could affect the mental health of people who have been stressed for months, he said.
There has been some positive news on the pandemic recently, DeWine noted. Both Pfizer and Moderna have announced that data suggests their vaccine candidates could be 95% effective. Both of those vaccines could be available before the end of the year, but in limited quantities.
DeWine said President Donald Trump’s administration has informed him Ohio could receive 30,000 doses of the vaccine next month. The state will prioritize giving those vaccines to health care workers and nursing home residents, who are at high risk for developing severe complications if they contract the virus.
The state has released a preliminary plan for distributing a coronavirus vaccine, but has not provided a timeline for when it could be widely available. DeWine cautioned Wednesday that it “will take awhile,” so it’s important the community continue to wear a mask and avoid large gatherings until then.
“What we do in the next several weeks as Ohioans will determine if we can really build this bridge and if we can slow the spread of this virus down," he said.
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