Ohioans are confronted with an additional four weeks in isolation as Gov. Mike DeWine extended the state's stay-at-home order Thursday in an effort to undercut the coming peak of coronavirus cases.

The order issued by state health director Dr. Amy Acton will continue stay-at-home precautions until May 1.

The initial stay-at-home order bought Ohio time to prepare for the onslaught of predicted cases, DeWine said. “It’s clear we’re not going to be able to go back to normal .... we have to stay at home.

“We can keep the numbers down and continue to save lives,” he said.

The statewide confirmed caseload — based on testing that has been limited to the sickest of patients — has risen to 2,902 Thursday, a 14% increase from Wednesday. There are 802 hospitalizations and 81 deaths in Ohio. Cases have been confirmed in 75 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Summit County Public Health's latest data, released at 1:15 p.m. Thursday, show 153 cases have been confirmed here, including 61 hospitalizations and eight deaths. The data differ slightly from Ohio’s latest totals, which has become a routine occurrence in the statewide reporting process.

Ohio’s latest data show 68 cases including one death in Medina County, 67 cases including three deaths in Stark, 59 cases including two deaths in Portage, 16 cases in Tuscarawas, 11 cases including four deaths in Wayne and three cases in Ashland.

A surge in coronavirus cases is expected to hit in the second or third week of April, said Ohio State University's Infectious Diseases Institute Director Michael Oglesbee, who is working with Ohio Department of Health.

With that surge, there could be about 210,000 Ohioans infected, but modeling shows that number could be getting lower thanks to social distancing efforts.

The death rate of the surge is expected to be up to 2%.

“Right now, it's between 1% and 2%. And again, the challenge there is having the denominator which is really knowing, more accurate view of the total number of infected patients because right now, we still face challenges in terms of testing,” Oglesbee said.

Based on the university's model, which relies on a contact network model of how much people are likely to travel or interact with each other in regions throughout the state, there could be 2,400 deaths this month when the number of cases ramps up.

Health officials are expecting out of the hundred thousand-plus number of infected cases that there will be a 20% hospitalization rate and a third of those cases will require admission into an intensive care unit.

The two-week stay-at-home order issued March 23 — restricting many Ohioans to only vital travel for food and medical care and closing workplaces deemed non-essential — had been set to expire Monday night.

The extension to May 1 may not be the end of the stay-at-home period, either.

“We’re pretty sure we are not going to be out of it by then,” DeWine said. And Acton said virus cases can be expected to continue into June once the peak subsides.

DeWine acknowledged the continuing difficulties the situation creates for residents.

“Thank you for what you have been doing. Thank you for the sacrifices you have been making. You are making financial sacrifices, you are making personal sacrifices, our lives have changed ... What you have done has saved lives,” DeWine said.

DeWine said the new order would require retail stores, apparently including groceries, to post a limit of people to be admitted to stores at any one time to help reduce virus risk. The state is not setting a number.

While no limits remain on attendance at weddings and funerals, receptions are limited to no more than 10 people.

Campgrounds are also being ordered closed under the new order, but those who live in a recreational vehicle at a campground can remain. State parks are not being closed, but social distancing must be practiced.

The governor also asked people traveling into Ohio, including residents such as “snowbirds,” for example, to remain in self-quarantine for 14 days. Exceptions are made for those who cross state lines to work.

“We did not make these decisions, I would not make these decisions, if it wasn’t a matter of life or death,” DeWine said. “We are doing well, but we have to keep this monster down. He is not dead. He is very much alive.”

The order to help stop the spread of the infection forced millions to work from home while the closure of other workplaces left nearly 500,000 Ohioans — about 8% of the state workforce — without jobs.

The virus fallout has slammed the economy, leading to record unemployment claims in Ohio and the U.S. Acknowledging “pain,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said work continues urgently to upgrade the state’s slammed and often-inaccessible online and phone filing systems to get the jobless their benefits. Expanded hours will be offered to take phone claims.

Also Thursday, DeWine announced the formation of an economic advisory panel to help the state steer beyond the several financial fallout for businesses. Frank Sullivan, CEO of Medina-based coatings manufacturer RPM International, has been asked to head the panel.

A dispute resolution panel also will be formed to handle complaints about businesses that are open or closed under the “essential” definition, attempting to introduce a fair way of dealing with the various interpretations of the definition from county to county.

The timing of the extension of the stay-at-home order matches the closure of K-12 schools until at least May 1 and directions to nearly 18,000 state office workers to work from home until the same date.

A parade of public-health orders to help halt the spread of the disease is coupled with urgent efforts to at least double the bed capacity of Ohio hospitals to deal with the surge of cases expected later this month.

State officials also continue to plead for the donation or purchase of personal protective equipment for health workers and first responders and are attempting to secure more ventilators to shore up a shortage.

Locally, Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda renewed her call for medical volunteers to register at http://ohioresponds.gov and implored business owners to make the health of their workers the highest priority by keeping only essential operations open and obeying social distancing guidelines at those places where workers must gather.

Skoda also announced that the department’s tele-briefings will be limited to one day a week starting next week unless the need arises for more. SCPH has been conducting its coronavirus updates via Facebook Live twice a week in recent weeks.

Columbus Dispatch reporters Randy Ludlow and Beth Burger and Beacon Journal reporter Betty Lin-Fisher contributed to this report.

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