We’ve had a number of phone calls with family and friends during this COVID-19 shutdown period, and one of the questions you typically get from people who live outside the Buckeye State is: “So, how are things in Ohio?” With all of the attention being paid to terrible hot spots like New York, states like Ohio can get lost in the shuffle.
The answer to the question is: Ohio is doing just fine. In fact, you could argue that Ohio is doing better than just fine — it’s actually doing pretty well, thank you very much.
When you talk about pandemics, you’re always going to talk about numbers. According to the information released yesterday, Ohio has 5,878 cases of the coronavirus, with 1,755 hospitalizations and 231 deaths. That’s 231 deaths too many, of course, but the reality is that Ohio stacks up pretty well against other states on a per capita basis — especially for a state with a number of more densely populated urban areas. According to the New York Times state-by-state chart, 5,878 cases puts Ohio at number 17 in terms of the total number of cases, but Ohio’s count stands at 50 cases per 100,000, and 2 deaths per 100,000. That puts Ohio at number 34 among the states on the list of cases per 100,000 people, and number 27 on the list of deaths per 100,000 people. By those metrics, Ohio is orders of magnitude better off than states like New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana. New York, by comparison, has reported 869 cases per 100,000 people and 40 deaths per 100,000 people.
Ohio was one of the first states to impose a preventive shutdown order, in hopes of flattening (and, incidentally, extending) the infection curve, and by all accounts those efforts have worked like a charm. Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, recently said that the social distancing practiced by Ohioans has “squashed” and “stretched” the curve. That means that Ohio’s hospitals and health care facilities aren’t being overwhelmed by cases right now, and shouldn’t be overwhelmed in the future. We’re now reaching the peak of the modified curve, and officials are forecasting that we’ll hit about 1,600 new cases per day, which is far below that nearly 10,000 cases per day that were initially forecast to be the peak of the curve.
The progress in Ohio has been such that Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, says that he is working on a plan to get the state back to normal, because “things are not as bad as they might have been.” The current Ohio shutdown order ends on May 1, nearly three weeks from now. Will it be allowed to expire, so people can go back to work, and if so, under what circumstances?
Those are questions that authorities in Ohio, and across the country, will be wrestling with, state by state. Ohio’s officials have established a pretty good track record on making these kinds of tough decisions so far — but I think they also realize that the state can’t stay in shutdown mode forever, and people need to get back to work. Balancing public health, the state’s economy, and the mental and financial well-being of state residents will be a huge challenge. If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that being governor is not an easy job.