Mike has been consumed for some time with the coronavirus, or COVID-19. He has cleared his schedule of virtually everything else.
Each day at 2 p.m. he has a press conference as he thinks it is so important that Ohioans know what is going on and have an understanding of why he is taking the actions that he is taking. Each day it is carried on the Ohio Channel and on Ohio public TV. At his side is Dr. Amy Acton, his director of health, who is a real professional and a good communicator, or as Mike says, “has a good bedside manner.” Mike has felt that public health has been neglected and wanted a real leader to focus attention on these vital health issues.
Mike has been guided not only by Dr. Acton but also by 14 doctors from across Ohio who they have assembled to advise them. Closing the schools, restricting all public gatherings to 100 people, and cutting off visitation at nursing homes were not easy decisions. As the father of 24 grandchildren and eight children, Mike understands how disruptive this will be to families. When he made the decision to close the schools, he also consulted with a world expert in how you slow the spread of this virus down. That doctor told Mike two weeks from now would be too late — that now was the time to act.
As Mike has been told, it needs to be slowed down so the public health system will not be overwhelmed as it is now in Italy. It is so heartbreaking to hear of stories where people cannot be helped because they have run out of respirators. Dr. Acton tells Mike the goal is to slow it down, keep it from dramatically spiking, so that our hospitals can handle the very sick.
Everyone is a potential carrier. What we have learned so far is that the young who get it, unless they have a pre-existing medical problem, will be okay after suffering more mild symptoms. However, the death rate goes up the older we are. For those in their 80s, the death rate is about 15 percent. To my readers who are older, please be careful, and try to limit your contact with others. While children may not evidence many outwards symptoms, they certainly can be carriers of this virus. Try to maintain at least a 6 foot distance from everyone, and avoid contact with people as much as possible. This might be a great time to read a book you have been wanting to read for a long time, watch the Hallmark Channel, binge watch Netflix, walk your dog, or hike in John Bryan State Park!
We all have to protect ourselves but also have an obligation to others. If you are sick, stay home. If anyone in your family is sick, treat it as if you are sick and stay away from people. The number of people who are infected will double each six-day period. It is twice as contagious as the flu!
We need to take every precaution we can. To improve your chance of staying healthy, stop touching your face. Wash your hands frequently with soap, for about 20 seconds, and don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth, which are the portals into the body for a virus like COVID-19. Everyone touches their face and it is a difficult habit to break, says Dr. William P. Sawyer, a family physician in Sharonville and creator of HenrytheHand.com, which promotes hand and face hygiene. He’s quoted in a New York Times article saying, “The advice should be ‘absolutely do not touch them!’ If you never touch your facial mucous membranes, you’re less likely to be sick again from any viral respiratory infection.”
One of the things I worry about most is, if school is closed, are there going to be children that don’t have access to food? Many children rely on school for lunch. We have learned that many communities are planning to run food routes to reach kids even when they are not in school. As communities we have to figure out the best approach for our own communities, and how we can help. Mike announced Friday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved Ohio’s waiver requests to continue to serve meals while schools are closed. It will be up to each school to determine how to package and distribute these grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches.
I went to the grocery this morning and I was careful not to buy things that were in short supply. But I did buy basic ingredients so I can make food to take where it might be needed. I bought a 10-pound bag of chicken leg and thigh parts. This will make lots of meat and broth for chicken and biscuits or noodles or just good soup. And I also made sure I had plenty of flour and salt so that I can make some homemade play dough for the children. We need fun things to keep our little kids busy for three weeks.
This is not going to be an easy time, but if we take care of ourselves and our families to stay healthy, take food to the quarantined and those in need, help our children to understand and keep them learning at the same time, and work together as communities to help those in need, we will get through this — because “With God, all things are possible.”
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.