COVID-19: Information and resources as Ohio deals with Coronavirus

(WTVG) - The novel coronavirus COVID-19 more or less took over our lives in March. The virus reached the U.S. with cases in Seattle, and eventually made its way to Ohio on the same day the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global pandemic. On March 14th, Lucas County reported the its first presumptive positve case. The first death due to the virus in the state and the county was reported on March 20th.

The outbreak has lead to major changes here in Ohio, across the country, and around the world. The Ohio primary election was postponed, schools are no longer in session, proms and graduations have been canceled or postponed, non-essential businesses have been forced to close, and tens of thousands of Ohioans have found themselves without work during a time of crisis.

So what does all this mean for you? We likely won't be able to give you every answer you're looking for, but we've assembled this guide to help point you in the right direction.

READ ALL OF OUR CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

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Current Cases in Ohio
Quick Links: Community Resources
COVID-19: What is it?
Who is at risk?
How do I stay safe?
How do I get tested?
Resources for Parents
Voting Changes
Dealing with Travel
Other Closures

Current Cases in Ohio

As of 2 p.m. March 31, the Ohio Department of Health is tracking the following number of cases in the state:

The Department of Health has created a website that updates these numbers daily, which you can find HERE. You can also find a number of resources to help answer some of your questions. They have also created a COVID-19 hotline you can call to get your questions answered. That number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department has also set up a hotline to answer questions related to COVID-19. That number is (419) 251-4000 OR (419) 291-5355.

As of March 31, Michigan has reported the following numbers:

Quick Links: Community Resources

There are a ton of resources available to get questions answered or find community support. Here is a quick reference guide to many of them.

COVID-19 Information

Ohio Department of Health Coronavirus website
ODH COVID-19 Hotline: 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634)

Toledo-Lucas County Health Department website
TLCHD COVID-19 Nurse Hotline: 419-251-4000 OR 419-291-5355

CDC Coronavirus Website

United Way 211

United Way 2-1-1 is a free, 24/7 health and human service referral resource available to all residents across Lucas, Wood, and Ottawa County. This non-medical, non-emergency system can connect community members to thousands of resources pertaining to food assistance, housing / shelter, employment, clothing, utilities, etc.

You can connect with 2-1-1 by dialing the number.
Text your zip code to 898-211.
Instant message by visiting www.211nwo.org.

Unemployment Claims

As tens of thousands of Ohioans find themselves without work, the state has opened up unemployment claims to those affected by COVID-19-related layoffs, waiving the requirement that you be seeking work.

State Unemployment Website
File by phone at 877-644-6562 or TTY at 888-642-8203, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Employers with questions should email UCTech@jfs.ohio.gov

Small Business Assistance

Small businesses are also taking a huge hit as many are forced to close. Help is available through the Small Business Administration.

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
Ohio Business Help
Businesses are also encouraged to reach out to BusinessHelp@Development.Ohio.Gov for assistance.

School Lunches

Many students around the area rely on school lunch programs for access to nutritious food. With schools not in session, public school systems and non-profit organizations have created programs to ensure no child goes hungry as a result of this outbreak.

Click here for a list of locations offering lunches for students.

Area Office on Aging

Seniors or those who needs information on caring or finding resources for seniors can contact the Area Office on Aging for Northwest Ohio at 419-382-0624 or by email at adrn@areaofficeonaging.com, or visit www.AreaOfficeOnAging.com for information.

COVID-19: What is it?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 (which stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019) is "a diseased caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019."

This strain of coronavirus is novel, a type not previously discovered, which makes it different from other, more common forms of coronaviruses. According to WHO, "several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)."

COVID-19 carries many of the same symptoms as more common coronaviruses, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These symptoms typically present 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms of COVID-19 have ranged in severity among patients who have tested positive.

Additional information on symptoms can be found on the CDC's website.

Who is at risk?

Statistically, COVID-19 symptoms are mild in the majority of patients. Among the factors that determine the severity of symptoms is whether the patient is part of one of the many high-risk groups. According to the CDC, those groups include older adults, pregnant women, and those with serious chronic medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. The WHO also adds those being treated for high blood pressure and patients undergoing treatment for cancer. People who are otherwise immunocompromised, though not listed on official documentation, may also consider taking stricter precautions.

The CDC also lists what they call "special populations," including young children (though available evidence suggests children may be particularly resilient to this virus), and the homeless. So far, these populations have not proven to be of high-risk of developing severe symptoms but have been considered high risk for other infectious diseases.

How do I stay safe?

The answer to this question depends on whether you fall into one of the above risk categories.

If you are in a high-risk group, the CDC recommends a number of precautions, including limiting your contact with others, avoiding crowds, and restricting non-essential travel. When you are out in public stay away from anyone who is sick.

If you are not in a high-risk group, the above precautions also apply to you. Low-risk individuals should also be aware of when they may come into contact with high-risk individuals and do what they can to limit the possibility of passing on any germs.

Regardless of your status, the most important thing anyone can do is wash your hands regularly. Is it simple? Yes, but it is also extremely effective in killing and removing viruses from the part of our body that comes into frequent contact with other people and common surfaces. You should also clean surfaces often, including wiping down counters, desks, and phones (including your mobile phone!), and wear a mask if you are exhibiting symptoms. Note that masks are unlikely to protect you from contracting an illness, but they do protect others around you from contracting an illness from you.

The CDC lists a number of additional precautions you may want to take on their website.

How do I get tested?

If you have symptoms you believe could be COVID-19, you likely want to get tested for the virus. The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department implores anyone who is not experiencing an emergency to avoid flooding emergency rooms for mild symptoms. They also ask that anyone who believes they may have the listed symptoms of COVID-19 to call their doctors before heading into the office. This allows your doctor to prepare for you to arrive if they do believe you may have COVID-19, and protects both the health workers and patients who may be immunocompromised.

So, who gets tested? As of March 19, the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department suspended public testing for COVID-19 in an effort to conserve limited testing resources. In a press conference, they said testing would be limited to first responders and front line healthcare workers so they could focus on getting those people safe and back to work.

Resources for Parents

Due to continued recommendations from the Ohio Department of Health, Governor DeWine ordered Ohio schools to remain closed for at least three weeks, through April 3, a date to be reassessed later.

Many students around the area rely on school lunch programs for access to nutritious food. With schools not in session, public school systems and non-profit organizations have created programs to ensure no child goes hungry as a result of this outbreak.

Click here for a list of locations offering lunches for students.

While students are our of school, many parents may need resources for things to do with their kids, especially when it comes to educational enrichment opportunities. A number of local organizations have put together activities and lessons for kids and parents to enjoy. You can find a list of those HERE.

Additionally, our Ross Ellet will be hosting three-day-a-week lessons on weather science for as long as Ohio schools are out. You can find information on those HERE.

Voting Changes

On March 16, Gov. DeWine announced that Health Director Dr. Amy Acton would be signing a health order closing polling locations across the state for the March 17 primary. As a result, the primary was post-poned while the Ohio Attorney General worked toward a legal remedy.

On March 25, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill that extended the mail in voting deadline to April 28 with no plans for in-person voting. You can find a link to request an absentee ballot here.

Dealing with Travel

Travel is among the industries most affected by COVID-19. At least two cruise ships have been trapped in quarantine due to cases of the virus discovered on board, both have since docked and their passengers allowed to leave the ship.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has appeared in dozens of countries worldwide. Confirmed cases of the virus topped 100,000 in early March and deaths due to COVID-19 number in the thousands (the majority confined to the area of China where the virus was first discovered). The CDC has placed several of the countries hardest hit by the virus on their travel restriction list, including China, Italy, and Iran.

Avoiding unnecessary travel is among the most common advice from healthcare professionals when it comes to preventing the spread of the disease. As travelers reassess planned vacations, many companies are offering assistance to passengers who choose to stay home. If you have an upcoming vacation you need to cancel, you're advised to contact your airline, hotel, or cruise line to see if they will provide options for postponement.

Some travelers, especially those planning new vacations, may not find it so easy to cancel or even to prepare for the possibility. Travel agents we spoke to say you should be sure to read the fine print on any tickets purchased and make sure that your travel insurance (if purchased) will cover cancelation for any reason.

Other Closures

All restaurants in Ohio and Michigan have been ordered closed for dining (take-out and delivery still allowed).

On March 16, Gov. DeWine ordered closed all fitness centers, movie theaters, water parks and bowling alleys.

The Toledo Lucas County Public Library will close all locations and Mobile Services to the public beginning Sunday, March 15. They suggest returning materials or renewing materials after they reopen. Drop boxes will also be closed.

The Toledo MudHens season will be delayed until further notice.

The Toledo Walleye and ECHL have suspended play for the 2019-20 season.

The Toledo Zoo is temporarily closing, starting 5 p.m. on Friday. The Zoo will be closed through April 1.

The Blarney Shamrockin' Shuffle has been postponed to a later date. The heated tent and open-air street party have been canceled.

The Zenobia Shrine Circus has been canceled.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cleveland has been postponed.

The Lion King at the Stranahan Theater has been postponed and will be rescheduled.

All Metroparks Toledo events have been canceled through the end of March. All indoor facilities are closed.

All Wood County Park District programs have been canceled through the end of March.

Ohio bishops have decided to suspend temporarily all publicly celebrated Masses through Easter on April 12.