Keep Calm

Facts over fear: That's been our guiding light as the Source team works to navigate the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid hundreds of questions every week, we saw a few themes emerge.

It's been more than two weeks since we launched our special COVID-19 section on Richland Source and introduced a way for you to ask questions on Open Source. 

Since then, we've received more than 100 submissions informing the community about changes related to the pandemic, including a number of questions as the situation continues to evolve. 

We've compiled a list of those questions below, along with answers meant to inform the general public that come from various resources and links from Richland Source, the Ohio Department of Health, and more. 

Are there any cases of coronavirus in Richland County?

Richland County had its first COVID-19 positive test result on Thursday, March 19, according to local health officials - click here to read more about the first announcement. Since then, the Ohio Department of Health has kept a running tally of cases that they update at 2 p.m. every day - as of March 27, there were four cases in Richland County. Click here for the most up-to-date information

I have just returned from overseas and have been advised to be tested for coronavirus. The Health Department advised that the only testing available is when symptoms are present. What to do?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends travelers returning from international travel stay home for 14 days from the time you returned home from international travel. During this 14-day period, take these steps to monitor your health and practice social distancing:

• Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. Also watch for cough or trouble breathing.

• Stay home and avoid contact with others. Do not go to work or school.

• Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares.

• Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).

If you do start to feel sick with fever or cough in the 14 days after you return from travel, you might have COVID-19; thankfully, most people are able to recover at home without medical care. Be sure to follow these steps: 

• Stay home. Avoid contact with others.

• If you have trouble breathing or are worried about your symptoms, call or text a health care provider. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

• Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room.

I would like to report a company that has taken no precautions to prevent spread of the coronavirus. How can I go about that? Any information you could provide me would be greatly appreciated.

According to the Ohio Department of Health's stay-at-home order, any questions regarding what services are prohibited under this order should be directed to local law enforcement or your local health department. That would be Richland Public Health, which can be reached at 419-774-4500. 

The Ohio Department of Health also advised if you work for an essential business, you should continue to practice social distancing and should stay at home outside of work hours. If you believe your business is nonessential but are still being asked to show up to work, you may discuss with your employer.

Wanting to know what the county going to do about the RCT city buses that are still running to protect the drivers and the passengers from the spread of this.

According to the Richland County Transit Facebook page, effective March 17 when boarding any RCT bus, passengers were asked to make sure they were sitting with a seat in-between you and any other passenger. On March 18, RCT announced they would start taking temperatures of any person that should enter the building as well as continuing to clean and wipe down all areas in buses and stations. On March 20, based on recommendations and guidance from the CDC, the Governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Public Health, to limit the gathering of people in groups of more than 10 the Stanton Transit Center was closed to the public.

Our reporter Noah Jones also spoke to RCT's general manager for a story - click here to read

What is the policy at OhioHealth regarding COVID-19?

Just a few days ago, we published a story addressing the preparedness of both OhioHealth and Avita hospitals here in Richland County - click here to read. In a nutshell, both health systems have response teams in place to address a crisis like this, and both have implemented new testing procedures, visitor restrictions and communication methods both internally and externally to educate everyone about the risks of this disease.

If we end up completely quarantined, where are the homeless people going to go?

According to the stay-at-home order from the Ohio Department of Health, individuals experiencing homelessness are exempt from the order but strongly encouraged to obtain shelter. In addition, governmental and other entities are strongly urged to make such shelter as soon as possible. 

Any advice on attending movie theatre viewings?

Well...at this point in time, pretty much every activity you might want to do has been shut down by Gov. Mike DeWine in an effort to promote social distancing and curb the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio. DeWine officially banned gatherings of 100 people or more on March 12, meaning "any event or convening that brings together 100 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theater, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space."

"Social distancing is so critical, and many Ohioans are starting to understand its importance, but there are still some who don't yet get it," DeWine said on March 18. "This is a crisis that we have never seen in our lifetime, and everyone must recognize that their actions could have deadly consequences."

Other businesses forced to close in the last few weeks include nearly all Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices around the state, day cares, barbershops, salons, spas and tattoo parlors, senior centers and adult day care, bars, restaurants and more. 

Will grocery stores still be open? Are we allowed out to go there?

Yes! The Ohio Department of Health's stay-at-home order specifies that stores that sell groceries and medicine are considered an "essential business" and will remain open. It also states that leaving home for essential activities, like obtaining groceries and food, is allowed. 

Can we walk to the store?

Yes! The Ohio Department of Health says exercise like running or taking a walk is perfectly acceptable. Plus, Carol Mabry, exercise physiologist at OhioHealth Ontario Health and Fitness Center, says it’s important for people to keep up their physical strength and health to ward off diseases or even the common cold. While exercising outside, you should still practice social distancing by running or walking at least six feet away from other people.

I was a server and have been out of work for a week, are there any more resources available for me as a laid off employee because of the shut down?

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says "if an employer lays off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus," those employees are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. An executive order issued by Governor DeWine expanded flexibility for Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits during Ohio's emergency declaration period. You can apply for unemployment insurance online at unemployment.ohio.gov

What about going to the court house? What limitations have been put on paying fines?

Speaking specifically about Mansfield, on March 20 Judges Jerry Ault and Frank Ardis issued an order that Mansfield Municipal Court's schedule and daily operations would be modified to protect the public. Click here to read the full details of that order. When it comes to payments, anyone making payments to the court shall be granted limited access to the lobby, but individuals are strongly encouraged to make payments online and/or by phone. The public health emergency may be considered to be a finding of “just cause” for continuances deemed necessary on a case-by-case basis.

Can vinegar be used to sanitize surfaces for this virus? 

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that shows vinegar is an effective sanitizer against coronavirus (and for the record, neither is vodka). However, other common household products that could be effective include bleach, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and simple soap and water. The CDC also offers a detailed disinfection guide - click here to read

Is there ever going to be a cure? And how many lives do you think will be lost?

Whew...this is a big question. 

When we look at the future of coronavirus, I'll be honest, most of what I've read is pretty bleak. This article from The Atlantic's science reporter Ed Yong offers a straightforward (and frankly, depressing) outlook of how coronavirus might end in the United States. 

recent analysis from Imperial College projects that 2.2 million people could die in the United States. If you read that number and panic, you're not alone. But the analysis also provides reason for hope — suggesting a path forward to avoid the worst outcomes.

According to a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and a professor of Global Health at Harvard University, basically, we need drastic action - more testing, a renewed commitment to social distancing, more ventilators and hospital beds, more protective equipment, etc. 

I read an interview recently with the doctor who helped defeat smallpox. He said the world is not going to begin to look normal until three things have happened:

• One, we figure out whether the distribution of this virus looks like an iceberg, which is one-seventh above the water, or a pyramid, where we see everything. If we're only seeing right now one-seventh of the actual disease because we're not testing enough, and we're just blind to it, then we're in a world of hurt.

• Two, we have a treatment that works, a vaccine or antiviral. Developing vaccines that are safe and effective takes time, investment, and good science. Developing a vaccine for a coronavirus like the one that causes COVID-19 comes with even more challenges. But at least 30 companies and academic institutions are trying.

• And three, maybe most important, we begin to see large numbers of people—in particular nurses, home health care providers, doctors, policemen, firemen, and teachers who have had the disease—are immune, and we have tested them to know that they are not infectious any longer.

We can make things better; it’s not too late. But we have to be willing to act. 

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