Summit County Public Health officials said Tuesday the county’s death toll in the coronavirus pandemic has risen to eight, with 128 cases confirmed here. Statewide, meanwhile, cases grew 13.8% from a day earlier to 2,199 — with 55 total deaths and 585 hospitalizations.

At his daily coronavirus briefing at the Ohio Statehouse, Gov. Mike DeWine said residents should only take trips outside the home for errands that are absolutely vital for nourishment and health care.

He acknowledged virus-related business and school closures have inflicted pain on Ohioans, but offered no apology for moving to help save people from COVID-19.

“We can’t let this monster come up. We have to keep pushing it down,” DeWine said, emphasizing that social distancing and limited interaction with people outside the home are the most effective weapons to curb the spread of coronavirus. “It has to be the kind of response you have in wartime because we have been invaded — literally.”

DeWine said an order will be issued to inventory ventilators across the state — so if there are shortages, the equipment can be moved around to where the greatest needs exist. The state is working independently to secure more ventilators, he said, and also looking to deploy respiratory therapy devices such as CPAP units (used to treat sleep apnea) as the need for breathing assistance becomes more critical.

The state and medical officials estimate that only 30% of the ventilators that may be needed are on hand.

Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, urged residents to make wise decisions about leaving their homes. Social distancing is making a difference, she said, but an even stricter stay-at-home order could be needed if people do not abide by the state’s emergency restrictions.

“Every person is making a difference” Acton said. “I am asking you to double down" on efforts to flatten the curve of deaths and total cases.

Mahoning County leads the state in coronavirus deaths with nine. And Cuyahoga County is Ohio’s epicenter, with 527 cases in the immediate Cleveland area. There are confirmed cases in 71 of Ohio’s 88 counties. (State data may lag behind locally reported cases; when Summit County provides updates, as it did Tuesday, the Beacon Journal is publishing those numbers.)

Other Akron-area case numbers provided by the state: Medina County, 55 cases, one death; Stark, 45 cases, three deaths; Portage, 38 cases, one death; and Wayne, nine cases, no deaths.

Health care workers account for a fifth of the statewide coronavirus cases, state data show.

Various data modeling shows the state will be slammed hardest by the virus in mid- to late April, with up to 10,000 new cases a day, although most will result in only mild symptoms unlikely to trigger testing to confirm.

Summit County Public Health said at its twice-weekly update that the local peak caseload is expected to arrive sometime between April 15 and May 15. The 128 cases in the county include 63 females and 65 males, ages ranging from 21 to 95.

Health Commissioner Donna Skoda strongly emphasized the need for people to stay at home, echoing a recommendation a day earlier from Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan that people try not to “mess up the math” on efforts to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Addressing questions on whether people should wear masks to cover their faces when they do have to go out in public, Skoda said the more important considerations are following social distancing and sanitizing guidelines and ensuring that all health-care grade masks are going to the front-line health care workers and emergency responders who need them most.

Homemade masks, while not proven to be effective against the spread of coronavirus, can offer people a sense of comfort as long as they are not straying from other guidelines, she said.

The county department also provided a new map showing which ZIP codes have confirmed cases, revealing that coronavirus has now spread to all but eight: 44286, 44141 and 44264 in the northern portion of the county; 44308 and 44304 in the center and 44260, 44319 and 44720 in the southern portion.

The map did not show the breakdown of cases within each ZIP code, but did show that the spread has been concentrated in communities that are more closely packed together.

Other developments:

• With hundreds of thousands of Ohioans thrown out of work amid the pandemic, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted acknowledged frustration from the jobless and said the state is insisting on quick fixes to its balky online and busy phone call centers for filing unemployment claims.

• DeWine said the state is looking at the case-by-case possibility of releasing some nonviolent offenders near the end of their sentences from state prisons to help reduce the population amid the outbreak. Deserving older inmates and those with medical problems also could be released. Serious offenders and sex offenders will not be released, he said.

• In an extended appeal to Ohioans, state mental health director Lori Criss urged residents to look after their emotional health and to assist those with mental illness who may need increased help amid the outbreak.

Beacon Journal reporter Betty Lin-Fisher and Randy Ludlow of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.


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