Pandemic changing services, election

Staff and wire report

As the coronavirus pandemic increases its hold in Ohio, health systems serving Champaign County are offering virtual visits and telehealth to patients.

The Ohio Department of Health statistics reported 1,137 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Friday’s daily report, but Gov. Mike DeWine commented on his social media page this “case data is believed to be low.” Testing continues to lag the demand for it as of Friday.

The overall number falls well short of all of the cases in Ohio because the state is limiting testing to those who are hospitalized and to health care workers. As of Friday evening, Champaign County still had 2 confirmed cases.

The ages of those who have died range from 58 to 93, said Dr. Amy Acton, the state’s health director. So far, at least 19 deaths in the state have been linked to the outbreak. Four of those who have died were residents of two nursing homes where there was an outbreak in Miami County, the local health department said Friday.

DeWine said Ohio has only two weeks before it will be slammed by a surge of coronavirus cases, and it’s critical now that the state add many more hospital beds.

New projections from the Cleveland Clinic suggest Ohio will be hit hard by a surge of cases in two weeks, and the peak of those could come in mid-May, DeWine said.

The focus now, he said, is to increase the number of hospital beds and equipment available.

Ohio could see up to 10,000 new COVID-19 cases per day at the peak and require two or three times the number of hospital beds that are normally available, DeWine said.

“I don’t want anyone to be alarmed, but I also want everyone to understand what we face,” he said.

Among the options being considered for extra space are college dormitories, hotels and shuttered medical buildings.

“We’re going to really need to accelerate this,” DeWine said.

For patients in Champaign County

In Champaign County, Mercy Health and Memorial Health announced additional ways for their patients to access care during a time of social distancing and a scarcity of personal protective equipment (PPE) due to the COVID-19 spread.

Mercy Health has offered Evisits through MyChart for established patients for some time and now is expanding that option to established patients across the Bon Secours Mercy Health footprint. Through a MyChart Evisit, patients can receive an online diagnosis and treatment plan for non-urgent conditions. With the aid of a questionnaire, patients detail their symptoms and concerns. Once their Mercy Health Physicians or Bon Secours Medical Group provider reviews this information alongside their medical history, the patient will receive a message with the recommended treatment plan. No online video or chats are necessary. (See more about Mercy’s updated services in today’s edition.)

Memorial Health, based in Marysville, has announced it will begin offering telehealth services to existing patients of Memorial Medical Group practices including Urbana’s Memorial Primary Care and specialty practices. Telehealth services will be available as either virtual visits via a phone call with a provider or video visits with a provider via two-way video chat (the patient will need a device with a camera and microphone). When patients call their provider’s office, the practice staff will discuss telehealth and in-office options with each patient, and provide next steps and directions for telehealth.

Election shuffle

Ohio has set a new, almost exclusively mail-in primary election for April 28 due to the coronavirus, ignoring the timing recommendations of the state elections chief and some voting-rights groups.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed a sweeping relief bill containing the change Friday, though he also had advocated for a different outcome.

Under the new scenario, the standard in-person primary is off and registered voters who haven’t yet cast a ballot will need to apply for an absentee ballot to vote. They can do that by printing an application form off the internet, calling their county elections board to request one or writing the necessary information on a piece of paper. Requests must be received at the board by noon on April 25, except in cases of unforeseen hospitalizations.

Once a ballot is received and completed, it must be postmarked by April 27, or it can be directly delivered to the voter’s county election board on Election Day. Only those voters with disabilities or those without home mailing addresses will be allowed to vote in person April 28. (See specific information from Champaign County’s board of elections in today’s edition.)

Other developments at the state level

DeWine signed legislation that eliminates mandatory state testing for schools this year and extends the deadline for filing state income taxes to July 15.

It also keeps in place the current school voucher program known as EdChoice, which helps fund private school tuition for students from poor-performing districts. Before the outbreak, lawmakers had been considering changing the number of qualifying districts.

DeWine postponed next week’s State of the State address, citing the need to maintain social distancing, and said it will be rescheduled after the state of emergency is over.

Bringing together lawmakers and other state officials would go against the administration’s message of minimizing contact with others, said the governor and Republican leaders in the House and Senate.

DeWine already announced freezes on state-government hiring and new contract services. He also told cabinet members to look for immediate budget cuts of up to 20%. from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

Staff and wire report