Coronavirus cases in Ohio hit 1,137 as Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law a relief bill passed unanimously by the legislature.
The Ohio Department of Health reported Friday that deaths from COVID-19 jumped to 19, as the number of confirmed cases increased 31% from yesterday. Ohio now has 276 people hospitalized, with 107 in the ICU.
Health Department director Amy Acton now predicts that Ohio could see up to 10,000 new cases of coronavirus per day at the disease's peak, which is now predicted for mid-May.
"As you can see, we have a long way to go," DeWine said at his daily press conference. "And that's the stark reality."
The legislation signed by DeWine makes a number of changes to state law. It waives school testing requirements this academic year, suspends the one-week waiting period for unemployment compensation, extends professional licenses, permits local governments to hold virtual meetings, and allows people to get jobless benefits if they are sick or quarantined.
The bill also extends the state tax deadline to July 15, matching the new federal deadline, and extends absentee voting for the state primary to April 28.
DeWine said the orders he's issued so far are aimed at two goals: buying more time through social distancing, and building up the health care system to be ready when the inevitable surge comes. Acton says those actions have already flattened the curve and lessened the impact on hospitals.
"We bought that time, we have to keep buying the time," Acton said.
New modeling developed by the Cleveland Clinic suggests that the state may not hit the peak of the outbreak until mid-May. To prepare, DeWine said Ohio may need to build up two to three times its current health care capacity.
"I don’t want anyone to be alarmed, but I want everyone to understand what we face," DeWine said.
DeWine said he's dividing the state into eight regions, and ordered each to present him a draft of their collective response plan by 9 a.m. Saturday. A final plan is due by noon on Monday. DeWine put Ohio National Guard adjutant general John Harris Jr. in charge of enacting the state's response.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) joined Friday's press conference by phone, to discuss the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress this week. The legislation will send about $1,200 to most Americans making less than $75,000, with checks starting to go out next week, and will also supply billions to state and local health departments across the country.
Portman also mentioned new expanded loans from the Small Business Association, of up to $10 billion per business. It converts from a loan to a grant if they use it for payroll, rent or other expenses. Portman said 800 financial institutions will offer these.
DeWine also mentioned the state is launching a new campaign to help support local restaurants, shops and other activities. So far 250 businesses are included on the Support Local Ohio website, but more can join.