COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Outdoor visits will be allowed again at Ohio nursing homes beginning July 20, a calculated risk that Gov. Mike DeWine said he weighed against the importance of family visits to people’s mental well-being.
The Republican governor announced the relaxed restriction Monday, even as he continued to raise warnings about spikes in reported COVID-19 cases in two southwest Ohio counties, Hamilton and Montgomery.
The rate of reported cases in Montgomery County, home to Dayton, recently has quadrupled and cases reported in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, jumped from an average of 30 to 100 per day per 100,000 people, DeWine said.
The governor said Vice President Mike Pence expressed concern about the spikes on a call Monday with governors and has pledged federal help. The Ohio National Guard also is stepping up efforts at its pop-up testing sites for the virus in the area.
Total probable and confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Ohio stood at 51,046 Monday, with deaths exceeding 2,500.
DeWine pleaded with Ohioans to remain diligent in washing their hands, socially distancing and wearing masks. He directly addressed criticism that wearing masks infringes on people’s personal liberty.
“If we want to go out and live our lives, this mask is a symbol of freedom,” he said. “It’s a symbol of freedom, because if we get 75% to 80% of the people who are out in public who are wearing this mask, we are going to see these numbers get better.”
The U.S. is “going in the wrong direction” with the coronavirus surging badly enough that Dr. Anthony Fauci told senators Tuesday some regions are putting the entire country at risk — just as schools and colleges are wrestling with how to safely reopen.
With about 40,000 new cases being reported a day, Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said he “would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”
“I am very concerned,” he told a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
Infections are rising rapidly mostly in parts of the West and South, and Fauci and other public health experts said Americans everywhere will have to start following key recommendations if they want to get back to more normal activities like going to school.
“We’ve got to get the message out that we are all in this together,” by wearing masks in public and keeping out of crowds, said Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.
Connect the dots, he told senators: When and how school buildings can reopen will vary depending on how widely the coronavirus is spreading locally.
“I feel very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get the children back to school,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans more guidelines for local school systems, Director Robert Redfield said.
But in recommendations for colleges released Tuesday, the agency said it won’t recommend entry testing for all returning students, faculty and staff. It’s not clear if that kind of broad-stroke testing would reduce spread of the coronavirus, CDC concluded. Instead, it urged colleges to focus on containing outbreaks and exposures as students return.