Virus relief bill nears signature; jobless claims skyrocket

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is poised to sign a sweeping relief package passed by lawmakers to address impacts of the coronavirus, while new figures on jobless claims show those numbers skyrocketing. Ohio has more than 700 cases of the virus, including three confirmed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which has set up a coronavirus command center. A look at virus-related developments in Ohio on Thursday:


Ohio has more than 700 cases, including 116 health care workers, and 10 deaths. A handful of long-term care centers are being called hot spots for cases.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base declared a public health emergency and set up a command center. Three cases have been confirmed there. Unit commanders have been given latitude to let employees work from home if they’re able, the Dayton Daily News reported.

The state is limiting testing to those who are hospitalized and to health care workers. The Department of Health said people with suspected symptoms should call a medical provider first, but seek immediate help if symptoms are serious, such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.



DeWine was awaiting delivery of coronavirus relief legislation passed Wednesday, which he has pledged to sign. Mandatory state testing for schools would be ditched this year, mail-in voting for the postponed primary would be allowed until April 28, and the deadline for filing state income taxes would be extended until July 15 under the wide-ranging bill.

Ohio’s two U.S. attorneys and Attorney General Dave Yost promised swift action including criminal charges against doctors found to have improperly prescribed the drugs chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 for patients who don’t have a positive test.



Jobless claims skyrocketed from about 7,000 to nearly 188,000 in the week ending Saturday, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That total for a single week was more than Ohio has seen in any full month except one, during the heat of the 1980s recession.



As questions continue about what jobs are considered essential, the state said several trades are on that list, including building and construction tradespeople, plumbers, electricians and exterminators.

The state is also cracking down on companies violating the governor’s order for people to mostly stay home. The order limits business operations to those providing essential services.

“Enforcement is coming. We can’t have people who are violating this. Because it’s not fair,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Wednesday.

Honda has extended its production shutdown until April 7.

Ohio medical marijuana patients and their caregivers can telephone orders to dispensaries during the outbreak under revised rules. Orders must be placed during dispensaries’ normal hours, and patients must go there to pick up products.



About 1,500 child care centers and family homes have been approved so far under a special license to care for the children of first responders, health care workers, children service workers, and other workers deemed essential. All others must close Thursday. The emergency relief bill passed Wednesday allows the state to continue paying providers at any publicly funded child care centers that are shut down.

In Dayton, plans are on hold to rebuild homes damaged in last year’s Memorial Day weekend tornado outbreak as volunteer groups are canceling planned trips to the area.

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio warned Wednesday that emergency shelters and other homeless programs lack cleaning, hygiene and protective supplies and nearly all lack space needed to quarantine and isolate anyone suspected of contact with the coronavirus or who have COVID-19.


Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, John Seewer in Toledo and Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed to this report.

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