Shared from the 3/20/2020 The Columbus Dispatch eEdition

YMCA helping homeless in crisis


Coronavirus testing continues near Ohio State University on Thursday.


Help for Ohio’s most vulnerable is being deployed as the number of people who tested positive for coronavirus continued to climb Thursday.

There are 119 confirmed cases of COVID-19 scattered across 24 of the state’s 88 counties. Ten people have tested positive in Franklin County.

And 33 have been hospitalized in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

To help slow the virus’ spread, about 200 homeless men will begin moving into the Downtown YMCA on Friday.

There were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in homeless shelters as of Thursday afternoon, but a few residents had been moved after showing symptoms of illness, and one was awaiting results of testing for the virus, said Michelle Heritage, executive director of the Community Shelter Board.

“We’re working to plan ahead for when the surge comes, and it will come,” she said.

Shelter officials said there are about 1,200 adults and children in local homeless shelters. Creating space for the men in the YMCA at 40 W. Long St. will free up areas for others to spread out in existing shelters, Heritage said.

Gymnasium and racquetball court areas are spacious, so the men will be able to bed down at safe distances, Heritage said. Shelter officials also are working to establish sites where homeless people can be quarantined as needed, she said.

“The Y is a big hero in this,” she said. “It’s a huge undertaking.”

Ohio National Guard to help food banks

About 300 Ohio National Guard soldiers from the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Columbus, will deploy Monday to help Ohio’s food banks.

The soldiers will deploy to 12 food-bank warehouses across the state that distribute food to people in all 88 counties. They will help with packing, sorting and distributing the food using “no touch” methods.

Soldiers will be delivering food to vulnerable populations at home and assisting the food banks in many other ways. The soldiers will assist in distributing food in Allen, Butler, Clark, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Hocking, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery and Summit counties.

Ohio residents might see military vehicles picking up and transporting food from grocery stores and warehouses and delivering it to food pantries and private homes across the state.

Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr. told The Dispatch that he recognizes people sometimes misunderstand their presence.

“If you see the National Guard out there, we are not rolling in to take control of your community. We are your community,” Harris said. “If you find the words “elderly volunteer” and replace them with “Ohio National Guard soldiers,” that’s all we are doing here.

“We are doing the work of volunteers who are now otherwise staying home.”

Members of the Ohio Military Reserve, a component of Ohio’s state defense force, also will be placed on active duty to work with the food banks.

“We welcome these National Guard members as part of our food bank family and thank them for their dedication and diligence in the weeks ahead,” Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, wrote in a news release.

Ohio’s food banks already have been limiting person-to-person contact on site and at their 3,600 member food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

Gen. Harris said the Guard has been preparing for this mission and that more soldiers than necessary stepped up early on.

“Our job is to plan in times of chaos,” he said. “We are ready.”

DeWine provides update on virus

DeWine compared the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday with the attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the U.S. into World War II.

The things Ohioans are doing to stop the spread of the virus are “patriotic,” the governor said.

“We have been attacked. We’ve been attacked by this virus,” DeWine said. “We’re asking our fellow citizens to do extraordinary tasks.”

Ohioans traveling home from spring break destinations, DeWine said, should take precautions. He asked that travelers stay in their homes for a few weeks upon returning and said others should not travel.

DeWine announced he would sign an executive order Thursday to expand behavioral health care in Ohio through telehealth.

He encouraged local governments to hold their public meetings remotely but to make sure the news media can still watch and be involved. He said the legislature would look at the issue soon.

The governor said he would close internet cafes immediately after receiving complaints from people across the state.

DeWine said there are no plans yet to require in-home quarantines. The governor did say he may have an announcement Friday regarding childcare facilities.

DeWine has already closed schools, bars, restaurants, salons, spas, barbershops and more in an attempt to put distance between people and slow the spread of the virus.

Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, referred to the virus as “a moving train” and said the public shouldn’t obsess about things like testing. Instead, she said, people need to do their part by staying at home.

Acton said workers for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department were investigating the possibility that Ohio may have suffered its first coronavirusrelated death. A 76-year-old attorney was awaiting test results when he died this week, The Blade in Toledo reported.

“I’m asking folks to really heed the message now because time is of the essence,” Acton said.

More cases confirmed across Ohio

A Nationwide Children’s Hospital employee is one of the 119 Ohioans who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The hospital learned late Wednesday that the employee, who works in the hospital’s child-care center, tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement.

The employee diagnosed with the virus recently worked for two days while largely asymptomatic but called in ill Wednesday morning upon experiencing symptoms. She was immediately tested using Nationwide Children’s on-site testing center and lab, according to the hospital.

Approximately 150 families whose children are served by the center were notified and will be monitored by Nationwide Children’s, the hospital said. No other children are believed to have had contact with the employee.

The child-care center has been closed until further notice, a spokeswoman said.

The employee followed protocol for the virus, including going through daily on-site temperature checks prior to each workday and self-reporting as soon as she was tested, the hospital said.

Two patients at the Koester Pavilion skilled nursing facility in Troy, in Miami County, have tested positive for COVID-19, the Ohio Health Care Association said.

The patients are quarantined and being treated at area medical facilities. Staff members and other patients who came in contact with these individuals are being tested.

“The facilities are aggressively screening staff and other essential personnel entering the building for any indication of exposure,” said Peter Van Runkle, the Ohio Health Care Association executive director.

Adjustments made around central Ohio

The Columbus City Council, at its final meeting before shutting down for a month, approved $12,000 for service organizations supporting Columbus’ seniors. It also will create a dedicated phone line for volunteers to speak to residents who feel isolated. The line will be administered by the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resource Center.

Delaware County is declaring a state of emergency, resulting in the closure of all government buildings to the public with limited access by appointment only.

The restrictions are effective at 8 a.m. Friday. Nonessential government employees are being told to stay home and, if possible, continue to work.

Hospitals tighten visitor restrictions

Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, the Mount Carmel Health System and OhioHealth are increasing restrictions on visitors.

Visitors are prohibited at Ohio State’s seven hospitals and Mount Carmel ’s facilities except in end-of-life situations or for maternity patients and others under the age of 18.

At Ohio State, patients who are having inpatient surgery will be allowed to have one visitor on the day of surgery and on the day after surgery. All outpatient locations may still have one visitor per patient during their appointment or procedure, according to Ohio State.

Visitors at Mount Carmel hospitals must be a family member or guardian and over the age of 18. They also cannot be showing symptoms of any illness.

OhioHealth is implementing a no-visitor policy starting at 7 a.m. Friday. Exceptions include visitors for end-of-life patients and people with disabilities who need assistance.

Both parents can visit their child if the patient is under 18, and maternity patients can have one support person during their stay. There is no time limit on approved visitors, according to OhioHealth.

Dispatch Reporters Megan Henry, Dean Narciso and Bill Bush contributed to this story.


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