Champaign’s earliest COVID-19 case likely was Feb. 1

Staff and wire report

Editor’s note: The local COVID-19 case count was 19 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to numbers from the Champaign Health District. There has been 1 local death.

Antibody tests are revealing the presence of COVID-19 in Ohio was much earlier than March 9.

Jan. 7 was the earliest known “probable” onset of COVID-19 in Ohio, according to information from the Ohio Department of Health. The case was a Miami County woman in her 70s.

Champaign County’s earliest probable case was a man in his 60s with onset Feb. 1, according to data from the ODH. According to the Champaign Health District, the man had traveled and was symptomatic in early February. His antibody test at a later date came back positive.

The information was released Tuesday as part of an analysis of antibody testing in Ohio. Several probable cases recently detected by antibody testing are believed to predate Ohio’s first lab-confirmed “positive while still infected” coronavirus case initially reported on March 9.

Local closings become permanent

The owner of Urbana’s Hair Co. The Salon and Spa announced Monday night the business will not reopen as previously scheduled. The salon joins Urbana University and a downtown jeweler that have announced permanent facility closings since COVID-19 mitigation measures began.

In an email to established customers, Hair Co. owner Annette Charles announced the salon’s permanent closing. The salon had been scheduled to reopen on Friday, May 15.

Hair Co. was located in the 200 block of North Main Street in a renovated shop that had served as Millner’s Cafeteria for decades. Its Facebook page was deleted as of Monday night.

Personal service businesses, including hair salons and barbers, are permitted to reopen on Friday, May 15. Ohio announced “massage locations and tattoos/piercing businesses will be permitted to reopen with proper safety protocols on May 15.”

State officials continue to emphasize social responsibility by encouraging people to wear masks in public to prevent spreading the virus to others: “To keep this economy open and to keep employees safe, please wear your face coverings.”

State update

The Ohio Department of Aging is offering a free, daily check-in phone call for adults aged 60+. This program will automatically contact participants each day to confirm they are OK. This service can also connect them to live support. The number is 1-833-ODA-CHAT (1-833-632-2428).

According to reporting by the Associated Press, shopkeepers and joggers outnumbered customers in the normally bustling Short North neighborhood of Columbus. Masked shoppers bunched up in lines to buy new Air Jordan basketball shoes inside a Toledo mall lined with darkened storefronts.

With Tuesday’s reopening of retail businesses after a nearly two-month shutdown designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine expects 90% of the state’s economy will be restarted by week’s end when barbershops, hair salons and outdoor restaurant dining also return.

But if the first day of retail shopping is any indication, the revival of Ohio’s economy will come at a slow pace.

Even among those who were the first customers back at Toledo’s Franklin Park Mall, many said they were there for something specific.

“I’m a little antsy. I don’t want to mingle,” said Amber Fryman, who was getting clothes so she could return to her job making Jeeps. “I’m just going from point A to point B.”

Once inside, though, she found the store that had her online order still was closed.

Martie Reed came away disappointed too. Not only was Bath and Body Works closed, she also saw too many people not social distancing.

“There’s no reason for me to be in the mall looking around,” she said.

Roughly two out of three stores at the mall were closed behind metal gates. Just a handful of stands at the food court were open and all the tables were taped off.

While most store and business employees now are mandated to wear masks by the state, it’s up to individual businesses to decide whether customers should too.

The beginning of Ohio’s week-long reopening of businesses came on a day when the nation’s top infectious disease expert warned of “really serious” consequences if state and local officials lift stay-at-home orders too quickly.

Still, Ohio is among more than two dozen states that are moving ahead with lifting their lockdowns.

Full restaurant dining will return in just over a week. Gatherings in large spaces inside bars and restaurants, such as for dancing, are still prohibited. And day cares and gyms are among businesses still awaiting word on when they can open their doors.

In the popular arts and entertainment Short North district near downtown Columbus, most passers-by on Tuesday weren’t shopping, but walking dogs or jogging.

At Fera, a designer clothing store specializing in denim, owner Jason Dowell was still looking for his first customer just before lunch. His new store was open for a single day in mid-March before he made the decision to shut down.

“I was a little nervous, not nervous as being a new store, but nervous for what’s to come, kind of the unknown,” he said. “Definitely the unknown.”

At Happy Go Lucky, a women’s apparel and home goods store, signs directed customers to use complementary hand sanitizer as soon as they enter. Masks were required and available for a donation.

“It’s hard to say when we’re going to see regular people just like walking in off the street,” said store manager Molly Babich.



The number of confirmed and probable deaths associated with the coronavirus in Ohio has reached 1,436, an increase of 79 from a day earlier, state health officials said Tuesday.

At least 1,303 deaths were confirmed by the Ohio Department of Health and another 133 were considered probable under guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of confirmed and probable cases topped 25,000 and hospitalizations topped 4,500, the department said.

Staff and wire report