Gov. Mike DeWine speaks at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon in Columbus.

COLUMBUS -- Gov. Mike DeWine announced today the state will ask hospitals to stop elective surgeries and procedures, seeking to ensure Ohio has sufficient resources to handle a surge in COVID-19 cases.

"There is no scenario now by which we won't surge," said Dr. Amy Acton, the state's health director.

DeWine said he had also asked the state's dentists and veterinarians to delay any procedures that were not immediately necessary, including dental hygiene cleanings and any cosmetic dental procedures. 

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Acton said there are 67 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ohio across 16 counties, up from 50 on Monday.  She said the age ranges of those with COVID-19 is 14 to 86 years old with a median age of 48. Of the 67 patients, 41 are males and 26 are females.

Acton said 17 of the patients are hospitalized, though no deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the state.

Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at The Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, said he worked with an advisory group around the state to create criteria for what would not be an elective surgery or procedure:

-- life-saving

-- to prevent the spread of a disease, like cancer

-- preserve a limb or an organ

-- severely reduce symptoms

"It was a very collegial process, a good agreement," Thomas said. "We feel it's a good process that we've been through and we'll make sure to preserve safety and quality of care in the State of Ohio."

Mike Abrams, president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association, told reporters that the state's hospitals are about 75 percent capacity, meaning they could absorb a surge of 25 percent without doing "extraordinary."

He said hospitals have also spoken to nursing homes and hotels about the ability to move non-infectious patients into those facilities if needed. He said there have been conversations with communities about re-opening recently closed hospitals if needed.

Tamara McBride, chief of the bureau of health preparedness for the Ohio Department of Health, said saving personal protective devices like gloves and masks, in addition to medical personnel, will be paramount going forward.

Reporters asked DeWine about the statewide school closings, which began at the end of the school day Monday and have been ordered for three weeks.

"The odds are very heavy (closures) will go on for an extended period of time," the governor said.

DeWine also defended his administration's decision, made via an order from Acton, to delay the state's primary election.

"I fully support that decision. We did what we have to do to protect the people of the State of Ohio," the governor said.

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