Columbus city officials say it's just a matter of time before there's a confirmed case of coronavirus in Central Ohio.
According to Mayor Andrew Ginther, the city has been preparing for such a case for weeks.
Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday declared a state of emergency after officials confirmed three cases of COVID-19, the first in the state. All the patients are in their mid-50s and live in Cuyahoga County.
Columbus Public Health commissioner Mysheika Roberts says her department has the authority to declare a state of emergency for the city if necessary.
“Once they declare a public state of emergency, there are large-scale events that they can deem unnecessary and can force the closure or cancellation of those events,” Roberts says.
The department has been monitoring travelers coming back from China for the past five weeks, and recently started monitoring travelers from Iran.
To date, the department has actively monitored 24 such residents, with two currently under supervision.
The city is also in talks with large-scale employers like JP Morgan Chase and Cardinal Health about the possibility of employees working remotely. The city itself employs 8,700 people full-time, and is assessing how many employees it can have work from home.
Ginther says Central Ohio Transit Authority officials are meeting daily to discuss how to protect customers and employees.
“They're sanitizing transit vehicles nightly. Focusing on areas that are used heavily by customers, such as railing, pull cords, and seats,” Ginther says. “Ensuring all hand sanitizers are full and operable before going out for service.”
Last week, the Arnold Sports Festival’s trade show was cancelled and spectators were banned from competitive events except the finals because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
The Ohio Department of Health makes the following recommendations to protect yourself from illness:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
Ohio's coronavirus call center is open to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634.