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Governor orders all Ohio schools to close for 3 weeks due to virus, bans many public gatherings

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Posted at 2:04 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 16:06:08-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine confirmed the state’s fifth case of COVID-19 Thursday, banned many public gatherings and announced all Ohio schools — public, private and charter —  would be closed for three weeks beginning March 17.

The new patient is a 55-year-old man in Trumbull County, in the northeastern portion of the state. He is hospitalized in intensive care, according to Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton. His spouse, three children and recent contacts are quarantined.

In response, Acton signed an order banning gatherings of over 100 people “in a single room or space,” including auditorium, arenas, stadiums and theaters.

“We must treat this like what it is, and that is a crisis,” DeWine said. “A crisis most of us have not seen in our lifetimes.”

However, the order also contains a number of broad exceptions: Libraries, bus stations, malls, offices, grocery stores and religious services such as weddings and funerals are all exempt.

DeWine referred to the three-week school closure as an extended spring break and noted that students should come to school Monday, March 16; the break will begin Tuesday and last until at least April 6.

The break could be extended if the coronavirus is still a significant public health problem at that time.

“We’re going to get through this, but we gotta go through this gauntlet,” DeWine said. “We’ve got to run through this gauntlet, and we want to get through this gauntlet without losing too many of us.”

According to Acton, the Ohio Department of Health now has enough supplies to test 1,200-1,500 people for COVID-19. She had previously stated ODH would reserve tests for the patients at greatest risk, including the elderly and those with existing respiratory problems.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 45 countries across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.

This story was originally published by Sarah Walsh at WCPO.