2020 coronavirus pandemic in Ohio

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Ohio
COVID-19 Cases in Ohio by counties.svg
COVID-19 cases in Ohio by counties as of April 3, 2020 at 2pm
  >100 confirmed cases
  10-99 confirmed cases
  1–9 confirmed cases
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
Index caseCuyahoga County
Arrival dateMarch 9, 2020
Confirmed cases3,312[1]
Official website

The American state of Ohio was affected by the viral pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Acting on advice from Ohio's Department of Health director Amy Acton, Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency on March 9 when the state had only three confirmed cases and no deaths. Acton issued a stay-at-home order effective March 23.[2]

Ohio's first cases were reported March 9, and the first death March 19. As of April 3, 2020, Ohio had 3,312 confirmed cases of the virus. There were 895 cases of COVID-19 that resulted in hospitalization and 91 cases that resulted in death.[1]

On March 27, Acton projected Ohio cases to peak in mid-May at 10,000 per day.[3]

Spread of virus

Coronavirus cases in Ohio from March 9, 2020 – March 29, 2020
  >100 confirmed cases
  10-99 confirmed cases
  1–9 confirmed cases

COVID-19 cases in Ohio, United States  ()
     Deaths        Cases
# of cases
# of deaths
169(+42%) 1
247(+46%) 3(+200%)
351(+43%) 3
442(+26%) 6(+100%)
564(+28%) 8(+33%)
704(+25%) 10(+25%)
867(+23%) 15(+50%)
1,137(+31%) 19(+27%)
1,406(+24%) 25(+32%)
1,653(+18%) 29(+16%)
1,933(+17%) 39(+34%)
2,199(+14%) 55(+41%)
2,547(+16%) 65(+18%)
2,902(+14%) 81(+25%)
3,312(+14%) 91(+12%)
Sources: "Ohio Department of Health's Coronavirus Website".
Notes: ODH statistics count only positive tests, not diagnoses based on symptoms. All numbers are cumulative.[2]

On March 9, Governor Mike DeWine reported Ohio's first 3 cases in Cuyahoga County, a couple who had returned from a Nile River cruise, and a man who had returned from an annual conference in Washington, DC where other cases of coronavirus had been reported.[4] Two days later, a fourth case, and the first instance of community spread, was confirmed by DeWine in Stark County.[5]

By March 13, there were a total of 13 cases, with 159 others under observation.[6][7] Within a week the first death was announced. Mark Wagoner, Sr, a prominent Toledo attorney and friend of DeWine, died March 19.[8]

By March 23 there a cumulative 442 COVID-19 cases, 6 of which resulted in death.[9]

As of March 31, there were 2,199 confirmed cases of the virus, including 585 that resulted in hospitalization and 55 that resulted in death.[1]

Cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio by county as of April 3, 2020[1][10]
County Cases Deaths
Allen 13
Ashland 3
Ashtabula 9
Athens 3 1
Auglaize 5
Belmont 13
Brown 2 1
Butler 49 1
Carroll 5
Champaign 4
Clark 7
Clermont 16 1
Clinton 7
Columbiana 28 3
Coshocton 8
Crawford 7
Cuyahoga 780 13
Darke 26 1
Defiance 6
Delaware 61 1
Erie 6 1
Fairfield 32
Fayette 1
Franklin 503 5
Fulton 3
Gallia 4 1
Geauga 35
Greene 9 1
Hamilton 220 2
Hancock 9
Hardin 1
Highland 4
Holmes 1
Huron 5 1
Jefferson 14
Knox 6 1
Lake 66 3
Lawrence 4
Licking 41 1
Logan 3
Lorain 95 2
Lucas 233 4
Madison 12 2
Mahoning 203 12
Marion 11
Medina 72 1
Mercer 6
Miami 64 8
Montgomery 57 2
Morrow 1
Muskingum 3
Ottawa 5
Perry 2
Pickaway 13
Pike 1
Portage 65 3
Preble 3
Richland 10
Ross 4
Sandusky 5
Seneca 4 1
Shelby 7
Stark 79 4
Summit 165 7
Trumbull 72 7
Tuscarawas 17
Union 5
Van Wert 2
Warren 31
Washington 4
Wayne 18
Williams 1
Wood 20
Wyandot 2
Total OH cases 3,312 91

Government response

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was one of the first state governors to "sound the alarm" about the coronavirus threat, taking action before Ohio had many confirmed cases.[11] Axios called him "among the leading governors in the country sounding the alarm about the threat of the coronavirus."[11] The Washington Post called his and Acton's response "a national guide to the crisis", pointing out numerous occasions when moves taken by Ohio were soon followed by other states.[12] The Hill said he'd "been one of the most aggressive governors in responding to the pandemic".[13]

On March 3, when the state had no confirmed cases, DeWine made the decision to cancel the Arnold Classic, a move which the Washington Post said seemed radical at the time.[12][14] The estimated economic impact for the state was $53 million.[14]

On March 5, when the state still had no confirmed cases, DeWine and Acton held a summit on COVID-19 preparedness for public health officials in the state.[15][16]

DeWine declared a state of emergency on March 9 while the state had only 3 cases.[17] That same day he asked colleges and universities to go to online classes.[18] Within days many colleges and universities had taken steps to comply.

On March 12 DeWine announced that all schools from K-12 would close for a 3-week break, starting March 16;[19] he was the first governor to announce statewide school closings.[11] The Ohio Department of Education updated their guidelines for ensuring schoolchildren received meals, announcing that each district would make independent decisions about providing reduced and free breakfast and lunch to students during the break but encouraging districts to ensure needs were met and stating the department would continue to reimburse districts for meals served during the closure.[20]

Also on March 12 Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton instituted a ban on gatherings of more than 100, with exemptions for airports, workplaces, restaurants, religious gatherings, weddings and funerals.[21] Despite having only thirteen confirmed cases at the time, Ohio officials were predicting that there were over 100,000 cases in the state.[22] Department of Health director Acton compared the small number of cases to "seeing a star and knowing that light is a moment from the deep past"[23] as she argued for Ohioans to take steps to prevent further infections that could overload the state's hospitals.[23] State Representative Emilia Sykes called Acton "the real MVP of Ohio's coronavirus response."[23]

Shelves cleared of facial tissues on March 15th

DeWine and Acton on March 14 recommended Ohioans postpone elective surgeries.[24]

DeWine and Acton ordered the closure of all bars and restaurants starting 9:00 PM EDT March 15, 2020, saying the government "encouraged restaurants to offer carryout or delivery service, but he said they would not be allowed to have people congregating in the businesses."[25][21] DeWine said he was "concerned that with St. Patrick's Day coming up Tuesday, people would ignore warnings and go out to bars."[26] Closing of the state's estimated 22,000 restaurants was expected to affect some 500,000 workers.[27] DeWine instituted a liquor buyback program[13] and expanded Ohio's unemployment insurance to cover laid-off restaurant workers. The state waived the qualifying waiting period as well as the requirement that individuals receiving jobless benefits must seek new employment. The action also was extended to workers who are under quarantine or those who work in health care.[28] DeWine announced his intention to close daycares and recommended parents remove their children from daycare if possible.[11]

DeWine said of the closings:[11]

Establishments can stay open for carry-out and delivery. What we can't have is people congregating and seated. Every day we delay, more people will die. If we do not act and get some distance between people, our health care system in Ohio will not hold up. The loss won't only be those impacted by COVID19, but the danger is also to everyone else who needs hospital care for other issues."

— Mike DeWine

Acton stressed the importance of "flattening the curve", saying:[29]

When our hospital systems are overwhelmed, that means if you are having a birth that you are planning, if you are in a car accident and need your hospital, if you have a stroke or an MI, even if you never get coronavirus, people in this country can die from something other than coronavirus.

— Amy Acton

On March 16 DeWine banned gatherings of more than 50 people and on March 17 he ordered that all elective surgeries be postponed;[30] controversially, the state government indicated that this included abortions.[31] On March 18, DeWine announced that 181 BMV locations will close until further notice. Five will stay open to process commercial driver license applications and renewal. DeWine asked the state legislature to pass a grace period for people whose licenses expired. Barbershops, salons, and tattoo parlors closed.[32] Businesses that do stay open will have to take every employee's temperature every day before they start work and send anyone with a temperature over 100.4F home; DeWine warned that if businesses did not comply he would close all nonessential businesses.[33][34] Mayor Andrew Ginther declared a state of emergency in Columbus, Ohio.[35]

Members of the Ohio National Guard wearing protective gloves while monitoring incoming vehicles.

On March 19 Governor DeWine signed state active duty proclamation that will activate 300 personnel from the Ohio National Guard to help with humanitarian efforts.[36] On March 20 DeWine ordered senior citizens centers to close by March 23.[37][38] The next day he closed adult day services serving more than ten people at a time, saying he had delayed closing them until ensuring provision had been made to care for those served in them.[39]

On March 22, Acton issued a statewide stay-at-home order to take effect from midnight on March 23 to through April 6, requiring the closure of nonessential businesses.[2] DeWine ordered most childcare facilities to close beginning March 26. The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy approved restrictions on the dispensing of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.[2]

DeWine said that because of the economic fallout from the closures, the state would need to slow down the rate of spending...rather dramatically," announcing on March 23 a hiring freeze for the state, a freeze on new contract services, and a continuation of the freeze on state employee travel. He asked cabinet members to find budget cuts of 20%.[40] According to Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, Ohio would at the request of the Trump administration desist from publicizing unemployment figures.[41]

On March 24 Jim Bridenstine announced that a number of NASA facilities would be moved to stage 4 where non-critical infrastructure is closed, including the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and the Plum Brook Station near Sandusky.[42]

Acton on March 24 estimated that Ohio was 7 to 14 days behind New York state, which at the time was overwhelmed.[43] On March 26 Acton announced that 17, 316 Ohioans had been tested.[44] On March 27 Acton said the state was at that time expecting cases to peak in mid-May at 10,000 new cases per day.[3]

On March 25, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 197, which does many things, such as extending primary voting to April 28, banning water utilities from disconnecting service, and waiving standardized testing for public schools.[45][46]

On March 28 DeWine asked the FDA to issue an emergency waiver for the use of new technology that can sterilize face masks.[47]

On April 2 Governor DeWine announced during his daily press conference that there is a new method to divide the state into hospital capacity regions.[48]

On April 3 Dewine extended the Ohio's stay at home order through May 1 with new restrictions: campgrounds must close, all retail businesses must post signs limiting how many are allowed in at one time, and wedding receptions are limited to 10 people. The order also establishes a state board to evaluate what is and is not an essential business.[49]

Effectiveness of government response

On March 26 Acton said that the measures implemented in Ohio had decreased the impact on the state's healthcare system by 50 to 75%.[44][14]

Primary elections

Ohio's 2020 primary elections were scheduled to be held Tuesday, March 17. DeWine, Acton, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose held an afternoon press conference on Monday, March 16 to cover precautions being taken for the next day's primary election.[29] LaRose issued an order to county boards of election allowing curbside voting.[29]

DeWine recommended pushing the primaries into June[50] but did not think he had the authority to change the date.[51] DeWine and LaRose sought a court order to close down the elections, having former Ohio Department of Aging Director Judith Brachman file a suit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to delay the election, but Judge Richard A. Frye denied it, saying it would set a "terrible precedent" and would represent a judge rewriting election code hours before an election.[51]

Acton, who according to the Columbus Dispatch "has enormous powers during a health emergency", eventually announced at 10:08 pm that polls would be closed as a "health emergency."[51][52] DeWine announced that LaRose would "seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options so that every voter who wants to vote will be granted that opportunity."[52]

A suit was filed in the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn Acton's action by Perrysburg attorney Andy Mayle on behalf of a candidate for a Wood County Common Pleas judgeship, Corey Spiewak.[53] The court ordered the state to respond to the suit by 1:30 am Tuesday, saying that "Due to exigent circumstances, this matter will be decided on the complaint and answer. No requests or stipulations for extension of time shall be filed, and the clerk of the court shall refuse to file any requests or stipulations for extension of time.[54][54] Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Solicitor General Benjamin M. Flowers filed an answer on behalf of LaRose.[55] A decision denying the writ was issued by four justices.[56] The three who did not participate in the decision were Judith French and Sharon Kennedy, both of whom were running for re-election, and Pat DeWine, who is the governor's son.[54]

Private sector response

In late March Battelle Labs in Columbus developed a technology to sterilize N95 masks for reuse, intending to provide 160,000 masks per day in Ohio and to send sterilizing machines to other areas of the US.[57] On March 29 the FDA approved the technology for limited use of up to 10,000 sterilizations per day.[57] DeWine issued an angry press release that afternoon.[57] Later on March 29, the FDA changed their position, and allowed full use of the technology.[58][59]


According to Acton, as of March 24 Ohio had 3600 ICU beds and would need to increase that capacity by 50%.[43][60] In Ohio about 26% of patients require hospitalization and about 11% need intensive care.[43][60] As of March 24, Ohio hospitals were at 60% of capacity.[43] In southwest Ohio, hospital executives said they could increase capacity by 20% to 50%.[61]

Acton said on March 24 that Ohio was converting anesthesia machines to respirators, considering which other buildings could be converted into makeshift hospitals, and determining how to safely reuse personal protective equipment such as masks.[43]


On employment

NPR reported on March 24 that "Almost 140,000 people filed for unemployment benefits in Ohio last week compared with fewer than 5,000 a week earlier."[62]

On education

On March 10 Dewine asked colleges and universities to go to remote classes.[18] Within several days many private and public colleges and universities had announced campus closings and a move to online classes.[63][64][65][66] On March 12 DeWine closed all K-12 schools starting March 16.[19] On March 30 he extended those closings to May 1.[67]

Social distancing measure taken in a university computer lab on March 13th.

On religion

  • The Catholic Conference of Ohio suspended all public Masses in Ohio from March 16 through Easter at the earliest, dispensing with the obligation to attend Sunday Mass through Easter.[68][69][70]
  • The Genoa Baptist Church of Westerville, Ohio switched to a drive in format.[71]
  • The Bishop of the East Ohio conference of the United Methodist Church urged the temporary closing of Methodist churches.[72]

On the restaurant industry

A restaurant in Perrysburg Ohio that is normally sit down, advertising takeout ordering during the pandemic.

The closing of restaurants and bars affected 22,000 restaurants across the state and 500,000 workers.[73] On March 20 a group of Cincinnati restaurateurs called on the federal government to provide a $225 billion bailout to the US restaurant industry.[74]

On sports

Most of state's sports teams were affected. Several leagues began postponing or suspending their seasons starting 12 March. Major League Baseball cancelled the remainder of spring training on that date, and on March 16, they announced that the season will be postponed indefinitely, after the recommendations from the CDC to restrict events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, affecting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds.[75] Also on March 12, the National Basketball Association announced the season would be suspended for 30 days, affecting the Cleveland Cavaliers.[76] In the National Hockey League, the season was suspended for an indefinite amount of time, affecting the Columbus Blue Jackets.[77]

In college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association cancelled all winter and spring tournaments, most notably the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments, affecting colleges and universities statewide.[78] On March 16, the National Junior College Athletic Association also canceled the remainder of the winter seasons as well as the spring seasons.[79]


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