Coronavirus Update: State of Emergency, OSU Cancellations, Concerns at the Polls
On Monday, March 9 Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in Ohio as a reported three cases of COVID-19 have been found in the state, all of which are in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland and surrounding area).
All three individuals are in their 50s and have had contact with people with confirmed diagnoses of the virus. This is different from community spread, where people are infected with the virus in an area, including those who are not sure how or where they became infected. Five additional patients are currently under investigation.
According to the governor’s office, the declaration of a state of emergency allows state departments and agencies to better coordinate their responses to assist in protecting the well-being of Ohioans from the coronavirus’ dangerous effects.
The emergency order also directs the Ohio Department of Health to create diagnostic and treatment guidelines and requires their use by health care providers and institutions, and if necessary directs the department to issue guidelines for private businesses on the appropriate work and travel restrictions.
“All citizens are urged to heed the advice of the Department of Health and other emergency officials regarding this public health emergency in order to protect the health and safety,” reads the order.
Ohio State University students, who are currently on spring break, will not return to classes until at least Monday, March 30, as a response to cases being discovered in Ohio and to avoid the virus’ spread on campus. The university also suspended all “new, non-essential” events and all university-sponsored international travel until April 20.
“I understand that our policy guidelines will cause measurable disruption, but the risk of not acting outweighs the inconvenience of these temporary measures,” wrote Ohio State University President Michael Drake, in a university-wide letter issued Monday. “The safety of our campus community is always our top priority.”
The Wexner Center for the Arts is limited through March 30, however, and athletics events including men’s and women’s basketball are continuing as scheduled, however that could change at any point.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation with the understanding it evolves daily,” said Gary Petit, assistant director of athletic communications at The Ohio State University.
Also, in a Tuesday morning press conference with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, he said primary election day polling locations at nursing homes and senior residential facility would be moved to protect older Ohioans. Officials said those originally assigned to vote at nursing homes or senior residential facilities will be notified of their new polling locations.
Schools will still house polling locations, however school districts will be able to decide to cancel instruction that day.
LaRose also gave voters tips for election day, Tuesday, March 17, including bringing hand sanitizer and opting to vote by mail, especially for residents who are senior citizens or have preexisting health conditions. Though just a week away, voters can still request an absentee ballot, which can be printed and sent through the mail. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by the day before election day.
The Franklin County Board of Elections will allow voters to drop off their absentee ballots on election day as well, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Polling locations are also preparing for voters by having disinfectant wipes and styluses on hand.
Check to see if your polling place has moved.
For more information, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19.