3 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Champaign County

Staff and wire report

The Champaign Health District on Sunday evening announced the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to a cumulative total of 3. Total confirmed cases in the county had held steady at 2 on Saturday. Clark County has 7 cases and Logan County has 3. Miami County has 43 cases.

Statewide there are 1,653 confirmed cases, according to data reported to the Ohio Department of Health as of 2 p.m. Sunday. Ohio reported a total of 29 deaths, 403 hospitalizations and 139 intensive care unit admissions.

Ohio developments

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Sunday he expects federal regulators to soon clear the way for wide use of a Columbus-based company’s services to sterilize N95 masks.

Battelle, a private research lab, says its process, which involves the use of hydrogen peroxide under pressure, can refurbish a single mask up to 20 times before the mask has to be discarded. Shortages of the N95 masks have occurred around the country, and Gov. Mike DeWine said that is also true among Ohio’s health care workers.

DeWine said it was reckless that the number of masks Battelle is authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sterilize every day hasn’t already increased from 10,000.

The company says it can handle far more masks and has been working to set up sterilization systems in other parts of the country.

DeWine, a Republican, said he received assurances Sunday from President Donald Trump and the Food and Drug Administration commissioner that the approval would be handled quickly.

A Battelle official said the company has been setting up logistical details with Ohio hospitals and is poised to begin collecting and cleaning masks from around the state in the coming days.

One of Battelle’s systems is in place in Long Island, New York, another is on its way to New York and others could soon be sent to Seattle, Chicago and Washington, D.C., said Battelle chief executive Lewis Von Thaer, who appeared with DeWine by video.

National developments

Bracing the nation for a grim death toll, President Trump on Sunday extended the voluntary national shutdown for a month, bowing to public-health experts who told him the coronavirus pandemic could claim over 100,000 lives in the U.S., perhaps significantly more, if not enough is done to fight it.

The initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government expires Monday and Trump had expressed interest in relaxing the national guidelines at least in parts of the country less afflicted by the pandemic. But instead he decided to extend them through April 30, a tacit acknowledgment he’d been too optimistic. Many states and local governments have stiffer controls in place on mobility and gatherings.

Trump’s impulse to restore normalcy met a sober reality check Sunday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, who said the U.S. could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the pandemic. Trump’s decision to extend the guidelines reflected a recognition that the struggle will take place over the longer haul and the risk of deaths spiraling into the hundreds of thousands is real.

“I want our life back again,” the president told reporters in the Rose Garden.

Trump, who has largely avoided talk of potential death and infection rates, cited projection models that said potentially 2.2 million people or more could have died had the country not put social distancing measures in place. And he said the country would be doing well if it “can hold” the number of deaths “down to 100,000.”

“It’s a horrible number,” Trump said, but added: “We all together have done a very good job.”

Brought forward by Trump at the outdoor briefing, Fauci said his projection of a potential 100,000 to 200,000 deaths is “entirely conceivable” if not enough is done to mitigate the crisis. He said that helped shape the extension of the guidelines, “a wise and prudent decision.”

The federal guidelines recommend against large group gatherings and urge older people and anyone with existing health problems to stay home. People are urged to work at home when possible and avoid restaurants, bars, non-essential travel and shopping trips.

The extension would leave the federal recommendations in place beyond Easter, April 12, by which time Trump had hoped the country and its economy could start to rev up again. Alarmed public-health officials said Easter was sure to be too soon.

The U.S. had more than 139,000 COVID-19 cases reported by Sunday evening, with more than 2,400 deaths. During the course of the Rose Garden briefing, reported deaths grew by several dozen and the number of cases by several thousand.

As some of his allies had predicted, Trump was clearly rattled by the haunting images coming out of New York, some from Elmhurst Hospital in his native Queens. More than 1,000 people in New York state have now died of the virus, with more than two-thirds of them in New York City.

“I’ve been watching that for the last week on television,” he said. ”Body bags all over, in hallways. I’ve been watching them bring in trailer trucks — freezer trucks, they’re freezer trucks, because they can’t handle the bodies, there are so many of them. This is essentially in my community, in Queens, Queens, New York,” he continued. “I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before.”

One in 3 Americans remain under state or local government orders to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus, with schools and businesses closed and public life upended.

Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, said parts of the country with few cases so far must prepare for what’s to come. “No state, no metro area, will be spared,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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Staff and wire report