COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held off on announcing when the rest of the state’s child care centers can reopen, saying Monday that it’s essential to get the details right.
The plan is still being constructed, and the Republican governor said he did not want to rush the decision.
“Reopening child care centers is simply too important to do so without all the best information and protocols in place,” said DeWine, who indicated last week that he planned to release a plan on Monday.
With Ohio’s retail stores opening on Tuesday and many offices and factories already operating, many workers are being called back to work but don’t have anyone to look after their children.
Only a limited number of child care centers that are caring for the families of essential workers are currently allowed to be open.
DeWine said he understands that child care is an important part of people going back to work, but added he wasn’t comfortable announcing how that will happen until he’s sure it’s safe for families and child care workers.
“It really is a moral imperative that we do this right,” he said.
New testing shows the first COVID-19 case was in Ohio two months before first thought, according to the state health department.
Antibody testing has found there were five cases of the coronavirus in January in five different counties, state Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said. Initially, the first three cases were reported on March 9.
The onset of the first known case was Jan. 7 in Miami County, according to the department.
The county north of Dayton had one of the earliest and largest outbreaks at two nursing homes where dozens of residents died.
Increased antibody testing will allow health officials to learn more about the disease and how long it has been spreading, Acton said.
No decision has been made on whether Ohioans will get to enjoy thrill rides, tractor pulls and fried food stands at county fairs this summer, DeWine said.
While the governor didn’t sound optimistic, he did add that fair organizers are being encouraged to figure out how to preserve their junior livestock and 4-H programs.
Because Ohio’s fairs go throughout the summer and into early fall, it’s too early to know what will happen, he said.
DeWine said it’s unlikely the state could comply with a White House directive Monday that strongly recommended to governors that all residents and staff at nursing homes be tested in the next two weeks.
The governor said the state has had a specific plan for nursing homes in place for weeks, including pairing local hospitals with nursing homes, making it a priority to get personal protective equipment, and sending an emergency response team to a nursing home whenever there’s suspicion of a positive test.
The state is ramping up its testing statewide, and expects to hit more than 22,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
That increase will also help if hotspots develop in nursing homes, DeWine said.
With more than 150,000 nursing home residents, Ohio has nowhere near the testing to meet the White House goal, said Pete Van Runkle of the Ohio Health Care Association, the top lobbying group for nursing homes.
An effort to test all residents in northwestern Ohio was shut down last week after a private lab ran out of tests, he said.
The number of confirmed and probable deaths associated with the coronavirus in Ohio has reached 1,357, state health officials said Monday.
At least 1,236 deaths were confirmed by the Ohio Department of Health and another 121 were considered probable under guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of confirmed and probable cases neared 25,000 and hospitalizations topped 4,400, the department said.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks.
Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.