Schools close, dining limited during crisis


By Alberta Stojkovic - The Sentinel



County Health officials gave response to COVID-19 at the Commissioners meeting Wednesday. From left Morrow County Health Commissioner Stephanie Bragg, Morrow County Emergency Management Director John Harsch and Morrow County Hospital Acute Care and Infection Control Manager Jessica Schwartz.

County Health officials gave response to COVID-19 at the Commissioners meeting Wednesday. From left Morrow County Health Commissioner Stephanie Bragg, Morrow County Emergency Management Director John Harsch and Morrow County Hospital Acute Care and Infection Control Manager Jessica Schwartz.


Sentinel Photo

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during the Ohio State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 5.


The Center Square

MOUNT GILEAD — Morrow County Health Commissioner Stephanie Bragg said last week the Morrow County Health District has been receiving phone calls from the Ohio Department of Health since January 2020 about the new coronavirus COVID-19.

The ODH has provided situation reports and recommendations.

Since then public health calls have come in to the county from ODH at least twice a week with a Center for Disease Control call weekly.

Bragg noted that the disease is very spreadable from respiratory droplets. She added that the good news is that 80 percent of people who contract the virus will have mild symptoms that are more like a cold.

However, 15-20 percent will have more serious symptoms. Those more at risk are the elderly and people with heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and other health issues.

Morrow County Hospital Acute care and Infection control nurse Jessica Schwartz spoke briefly about the hospital’s response. She said they are following the ODH guidelines on testing and coordinating with the County Health Department and ODH for guidance.

Actions being recommended:

• For persons with symptoms of the virus, ODH has test kits and guidance for the Health District for testing. They are recommending testing for other types of flu virus first and ruling those out before testing for COVID-19.

• Traveling out of state and out of country is strongly discouraged. A federal ban on travel to Europe is being enforced.

• Bragg emphasized that anyone with a suspected case should call the Morrow County Health Department to get guidance on what to do. Their phone number is 419-947-1545, Extension 303.

• Ohio call center is open to answer questions about COVID-19 seven days a week from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. at 1-833-427-5634.

Bragg said that with a new disease, people have no prior immunity to it. There is also no effective treatment to cure it. A vaccine against it does not yet exist. All of these factors are why a new virus is of public health concern. It is the responsibility of health officials to take steps to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 and all other communicable disease.

“There will be less time lost and a quicker end to this emergency if the virus can be stopped,” Bragg said. “That’s why we are recommending not having big events or going out of state.”

Primary tug of war

All in-person voting was to be moved to June 2. Gov. Mike DeWine is recommending that voting be extended through that date for Ohio’s primary.

Approval of that request was expected in Franklin County Common Pleas Court later Monday, but Judge Richard Frye ruled against DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Frye said that to postpone the primary would set a “terrible precedent.”

“We should not force (voters) to make this choice, a choice between their health and their constitutional rights and their duties as American citizens,” DeWine said.

Schools closed

All kindergarten through 12th grade schools in Ohio will close for at least three weeks over concerns of the spread of the novel coronavirus, DeWine announced Thursday.

“Beginning at the conclusion of the school day on Monday, March 16, all K-12 schools will close to students through Friday, April 3,” the governor’s announcement says. “This order includes all public, community, and private K-12 schools in the state, but does not apply to Ohio’s childcare system such as daycare centers and home-based childcare providers.”

DeWine directed school districts to find alternative ways to provide education. Many colleges and universities across the country are canceling in-person classes and offering virtual courses online.

Dining suspended

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Sunday afternoon that all bars and restaurants will have to stop inside service.

It is the latest step in a series of steps already taken in Ohio in the wake of the COVID-19 spreading throughout Ohio.

He said it was not an easy decision, but it is necessary.

“It’s a matter of life and death,” DeWine said.

Sit-down restaurants and cafes and taverns and bars will not be allowed to offer sit-down services until the ban is lifted. It took effect at 9 p.m. March 15.

However, carryout services at restaurants that provide it will be allowed. Most Morrow County eateries are offering this option.

It is unknown when the ban will be lifted.

Hospital changes

In an effort to protect patients, visitors, physicians and staff from COVID-19, Morrow County Hospital has implemented the following visitor restrictions at Morrow County Hospital effective Monday, March 16 at 7 a.m.

Visitor guidelines:

• Visitors must be 18 years or older

• Patients will be limited to one visitor at a time, up to two visitors per day, in most areas of the hospital

• In-person Behavioral Health visits will no longer be permitted due to the common space these require

• Visiting hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Overnight visits will not be permitted with the exception of end-of-life situations

• We will make limited exceptions for end-of-life patients and for those with disabilities who need assistance

Visitor screening:

Visitors to all Morrow County Hospital and outpatient care offices will also be screened and will not be granted entrance if any of the following applies:

• Exhibiting Flu-like symptoms

• Fever within the past 24 hours

• Cough or shortness of breath within the past 14 days

• Contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient within the past 14 days

• International travel within the past 14 days

Morrow County Hospital has suspended the Health Awareness Blood Profiles that were scheduled for April 22, 23 and 24 at the hospital.

More closings

DeWine issued an order to close gyms, fitness centers, recreation centers, bowling alleys, indoor water parks, movie theaters, and trampoline parks across the state until further notice. This takes effect at the close of business Monday, March 16.

Gasoline prices fall

As crude oil prices trend lower, Americans are seeing pump prices plummet across the country. Ohio’s average is currently $1.97 a gallon.

County Health officials gave response to COVID-19 at the Commissioners meeting Wednesday. From left Morrow County Health Commissioner Stephanie Bragg, Morrow County Emergency Management Director John Harsch and Morrow County Hospital Acute Care and Infection Control Manager Jessica Schwartz.
https://www.morrowcountysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2020/03/web1_IMG_20200311_095752-4.jpgCounty Health officials gave response to COVID-19 at the Commissioners meeting Wednesday. From left Morrow County Health Commissioner Stephanie Bragg, Morrow County Emergency Management Director John Harsch and Morrow County Hospital Acute Care and Infection Control Manager Jessica Schwartz. Sentinel Photo

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during the Ohio State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 5.
https://www.morrowcountysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2020/03/web1_DEWINE-1.jpgOhio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during the Ohio State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 5. The Center Square

By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel

Anthony Conchel and The Center Square contributed to this report.

Anthony Conchel and The Center Square contributed to this report.