COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday afternoon thanked Ohioans for the measures they have taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus statewide and he assured that better times are yet to come.
“Today is the first day of spring. We know that there is hope — spring will come to Ohio and across the country. This reminds us of how good life is and that there will be a new day coming. Maybe even a baby boom! There is nothing more joyful than the birth of a child.
“I want to thank every one of you who have been doing good deeds to help your neighbors in Ohio during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you so very, very much.
“Just as in a time of war, we’ve been attacked by this virus and we have to pull together. It’s going to be the small acts of each and every Ohioan that will make all the difference in the world.“
He also said, “I’m asking Ohioans today to put their American flags out! We will get through this. Spring will come.”
He suggested that all local governments be prepared to work remotely as much as possible, and that the General Assembly will address this next week.
DeWine added that, “I want to assure everyone that the grocery supply chain is going well. The food is not going to run out at the grocery store.”
He addressed those returning from spring break, saying, “If you have been traveling, please stay in your home when you return. Make sure you aren’t in contact with those outside of your household.
“Anyone thinking about traveling: Please reconsider.”
DeWine also addressed rumors, stating, “Rumors about quarantining everyone in Ohio in their homes, martial law — none of this is true.”
Also at the press conference, it was announced that Ohio is expanding Medicaid access to services so patients won’t have to go to the office or the hospital — they can talk to experts over the phone or online.
DeWine is issuing an executive order that will expand that access to medical and behavioral health services using telehealth.
Enabling services to be done remotely “is a good way to take the pressure off of emergency rooms and hospitals while allowing Ohioans to continue to receive quality care and not have to leave the home.”
Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor spoke, saying, “I want to let everyone know what the courts are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courts must be open to address emergency and time-sensitive matters” but courts will be closed to the public for non-essential purposes and she encouraged local judges to use technology and to take local measures and to use their discretion.”
O’Connor said, “There are many different ages and health conditions of prisoners in local jails. An assessment should be done to determine if jail inmates who are high-risk for COVID-19 can safely be released in an effort to safeguard others who are in jail.”
She also said that courts should reduce jury pools, reduce face-to-face contact, and consider lowering bonds and using summonses instead of arrests to minimize jail populations.
She added that the total closure of courts would present an access to justice issue.
Clinton County Municipal Court Judge Mike Daugherty had reportedly earlier this week communicated with all law enforcement agencies in Clinton County to set some parameters for all to follow.
As of 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Ohio had confirmed 119 cases of coronavirus in 24 counties.
National Guard deployed
Gov. DeWine signed a state active duty proclamation that activates approximately 300 personnel from the Ohio National Guard to support humanitarian efforts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The soldiers will support the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Ohio Association of Foodbanks at locations throughout Ohio by transporting, packaging and distributing food to homes in vulnerable areas, community-based locations, and partner agencies in rural counties.
“The action I’ve taken to activate the Ohio National Guard will provide support to our food pantries that are low on staff and need help getting food to some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Gov. DeWine. “By looking out for our neighbors and following proper health safety guidelines, we will make it through this together.”
Guard members from the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team headquartered in Columbus have been requested to assist local food distributions in Allen, Butler, Clark, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Hocking, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, and Summit counties.
Members of the Ohio Military Reserve, a component of the Ohio state defense force, will also be placed on state active duty to coordinate with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks at the food bank locations.
“Our state is tackling the public health issue caused by the outbreak of COVID-19. We have a responsibility to respond when our governor and fellow Ohioans need our assistance,” said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general. “We have a long history of supporting the state and nation during times of emergency. Our Guard members are coming from counties across the state to serve their own communities, ensuring their neighbors continue to receive food and pantry items.”
In the meantime, Harris added, the Ohio National Guard stands ready to support any additional requests in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are more than 16,000 Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen in the Ohio National Guard, which is the nation’s fourth-largest National Guard. Ohio National Guard members work and live in nearly every community across the state.