Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency after the first three cases of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, were confirmed in the state.
DeWine announced Monday that three Ohioans tested positive for the virus. All three patients live in Cuyahoga County, and are in their mid-50s.
Two of the patients are a married couple who recently returned from a Nile River cruise. The third is a man who recently returned from the American Israel Public Affiars Commitee conference in Washington, D.C.
"From what we see around the world and the United States, this disease will for a period significantly disrupt our lives," DeWine said.
The governor said that potential changes may include school closures, companies requiring employees to work from home, and an overall avoidance of large crowds.
DeWine said that declaring a state of emergency is a "legal necessity" allowing state departments and agencies to better coordinate their response. His order also allows Ohio to purchase health-related items without a bid.
Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton said Monday the positive cases were identified through tests conducted with the state's new kits.
Previously, two other people who attended the AIPAC conference tested positive for coronavirus. Thousands of people attended the annual convention, including some members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence.
Acton says that the coronavirus now meets the criteria of a pandemic.
"If you live in a household with someone that is vulnerable to this disease, treat yourself as if you're someone who already has it," Acton says.
The health department says it will notify people if they came into contact with patients who tested positive for COVID-19.
"Be good to each other. There are a lot of people who are scared, there's a lot of fear, and there's a lot we can do to help each other," Acton said.
All non-essential travel by state employees will be canceled, the governor says. The state is still determining whether to cancel the upcoming NCAA March Madness tournament.
With a week before Ohio's primary election, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also encouraged people in vulnerable populations to vote by mail rather than in-person.
The Ohio Department of Health is providing daily updates of coronavirus numbers in Ohio. So far, 11 people in Ohio have tested negative, while 255 people across the state are being monitored by their local health departments.
Health officials are also investigating five people suspected of having the disease. Those individuals show symptoms of respiratory illness and either recently traveled to China or interacted with someone known to have COVID-19.
The Ohio Department of Health has also opened a call center for questions about the coronavirus. The hotline is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
Last Thursday, Acton issued a directive banning spectators for most of the Arnold Sports Festival over concerns over the disease. The festival already called off its annual trade expo.
"We will be making more of these - many of you lived through many epidemics over time," Acton said at a statewide summit in Columbus on Thursday. "We will be making more of these every day."
The CDC reports that 19 people have died from COVID-19 so far.
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.