Restart Ohio Now Safely Petition
As of April 15, 2020, Ohio is clearly past the first wave of COVID-19 infections. We have successfully mitigated the initial outbreak and it is time to switch to a strategy of containment while putting Ohioans back to work safely.
1. The near-term prospects for discovering a vaccine or cure are low and experts agree we are past the point where full eradication of the virus could occur. Ohio and other states will need to prepare for ongoing management of the outbreak in a way that will prevent hospital resources from becoming overwhelmed.
2. Ohio should be cautious in approaching the relaxation/removal of business closures and social distancing restrictions, but we must weigh the benefits of continuing strong measures to suppress the currently low infection totals versus the costs of restrictions.
3. Job losses and reduced income from the partial economic shutdown are creating hardship for many in the short term and will have longer term economic impacts for families, businesses, and the budgets of government entities.
4. The human impact of the stay-at-home orders is significant and important. People are separated from family members, friends, and loved ones. Students are missing important learning and social time. Athletes and fans are separated from the sports they love.
5. Ohio citizens deserve a clear explanation of what metrics the Governor and his team are monitoring to determine when relaxation of social distancing measures can begin. This includes current and projected documented infections, resolved cases, death rates, hospitalization and discharge rates, regular and ICU hospital bed utilization rates, current availability of testing, test processing capacity and utilization rates, availability of personal protective gear in hospitals, availability of masks to the general public, and more. Transparency is particularly important as we ask our people to maintain extraordinary disruption to daily life.
We believe that Ohio should began the process of opening Ohio starting today and that this can be accomplished gradually and safely. We call upon Governor DeWine, Dr. Acton and their team to consider the following ideas and start reopening Ohio today.
General Ideas and Policy Suggestions for Executing a Reopening of Ohio:
1. Ohioans are becoming more aware that hospitals are not busy and that they know few people that have been infected. Asking them to wait until May 1 to begin to relax restrictions is not viable.
2. A gradual reopening must be pursued with close monitoring of infection rates to ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed with patients.
3. Much broader outpatient lab testing for current cases and antibody testing for resolved cases are very important in determining our overall trajectory and can help to track and isolate the infected. Expanding testing access is important, as is maximizing test processing capacity
4. However, we don’t need perfect testing to reduce transmission rates. Checking temperatures before entering workplaces and other public areas is far better than no restrictions at all.
5. Masks have proven to be somewhat helpful to protecting the wearer, but very helpful in preventing asymptomatic spreaders from passing the virus to others. Asian countries with strong mask wearing cultures (Japan, South Korea, Singapore) have significantly lower infection curves than others. Consider requiring masks to be worn in certain public areas. It may take time to accumulate and distribute masks to the public.
6. Current stocks of personal protective equipment at hospitals are reported to be adequate, but we may need additional time under restrictions to build supplies.
7. Consider restrictions on travel to hotspots in other parts of the country.
8. Encourage employees and students who can work and learn effectively while remote to stay home.
9. Begin reopening businesses in prioritized fashion beginning with allowing elective and non-urgent medical care to resume and slowly resuming normal operations while maintaining social distancing and other precautions.
10. Monitor data closely to ensure that each step in the process continues to keep new infections from getting out of control.
About the Authors
Mike Wilson has a B.S in Applied Mathematics from the University of Cincinnati and is CTO of Interlink Cloud Advisors, a technology consulting firm based in Cincinnati. He has done extensive analysis on publicly available data on COVID-19 spread in Ohio.
Dr. Robert Bulas received his B.S. and M.D. degrees from The Ohio State University and has served the Greater Cincinnati area as a physician since 1993. He has lectured on health care issues and health care policy, and has extensively analyzed the emerging data and medical publications on the COVID-19 pandemic