Describing Ohio’s “stay safe” lockdown order as “a marathon, it never was going to be a sprint,” Highland County Emergency Operations Center Public Information Officer Branden Jackman drew comparisons with both an Olympic runner and avoiding a repeat of the deadly 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
During Thursday’s Facebook live news conference, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner also implored those watching to be prepared for the long haul.
“I don’t think that we are at the end of the tunnel yet,” Warner said. “I think we’re just getting into the tunnel itself. We’ve done a lot of good work to slow things down and to stop the uncontrolled spread of this disease.”
He indicated the work ahead would fall into three phases: maintaining the integrity of the medical system, keeping the high risk population safe, and keeping disease counts as low as possible.
Jackman said Highland County’s total COVID-19 cases to date stood at 12 with eight recoveries, three current active infections, and one death.
Nearly 70 viewers logged in with comments and questions to Thursday’s Facebook Live session, with the lead-off question asking the officials’ reaction to Wednesday’s letter from the Highland County commissioners protesting the sluggishness and perceived unfair treatment of small businesses when it came to re-opening Ohio’s economy.
“We’re in the weird place in the middle where sometimes we have personal and political opinions as a health department which don’t matter as much as what is in the state orders,” Warner said. “There’s a lot in the commissioners’ letter that I agree with, and one of the things we continue to talk about is whether one size does fit all, and whether one state order should apply all across the state.”
One other hot topic was the re-opening of restaurants, bars, hair salons and barbershops, which Gov. DeWine said during his news conference could resume business on Friday, May 15 with new guidelines to protect workers and customers.
The new orders also said that outdoor dining could resume that same day, and indoor dining could resume the following Thursday on May 21.
Warner said the information he has seen included guidelines concerning building capacity limitations, insuring tables and chairs were at least six feet apart, no buffet service in the near future, and for hair care shops requirements for mask useage on both beautician and client, in addition to requirements for customers to wait in their car until their appointment is ready.
Also discussed Thursday:
• New testing priorities have been issued from both the Ohio Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control. Warner said they fall into three tiers: hospitalized patients and health care workers with symptoms, residents of long-term care facilities and congregant living settings such as jails and homeless shelters, and patients 65 years and older and those with underlying health problems that both display symptoms.
• Readiness of local hospitals. As a lieutenant with Paint Creek Joint/EMS Fire District and a firefighter/paramedic, Jackman said that the “sickest of the sick” are most always transported to larger hospitals in neighboring cities due to their having more advanced treatment facilities and specialists on staff. However, he pointed out that unlike some rural counties that have no hospitals, Highland County is fortunate in that it has two that were highly qualified to stabilize a patient, and then prepare them for higher levels of care somewhere else.
• Resumption of school in the fall. Warner said educators were looking at a concept called “cohorting,” where small groups are kept together and then moved through a process by being kept apart from other groups. Another proposal is for in-class sessions to be held two days per week with the remainder consisting of distance learning via online portals.
• Traveling out of state. One of the exemptions, Warner said, was for employment or funerals, but the current orders ask, but do not mandate, a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travel.
• Returning to work after recovering from COVID-19. Warner said at present it isn’t a big issue, but as the number of tests increase, more people locally may discover they have the virus but never displayed symptoms. He said recent CDC rules now require if a patient had been sick with COVID, they needed to be off the job at least 10 days past the onset of symptoms and a minimum of three days where pain relievers such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen did not have be used.
In view of recent developments at the Ohio statehouse where a measure was passed by the House of Representatives that seeks to restrict mandatory closure and stay-at-home orders issued by the Ohio health director to 14 days, Warner asked that the current pandemic not be politicized.
“I really want to encourage people against making this issue political,” Warner said. “There is a reason that our health commissioners in Ohio aren’t elected officials and that is because we don’t want people making health decisions based on political motivations.”
The next Facebook Live streaming news conference will be Thursday, May 14 at 12:30 p.m.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.