Coronavirus - Supermarkets installing plexiglass dividers at checkouts

As Butler County coronavirus cases rise, health director pleads to ‘stay the heck home’

Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer is continuing to ask non-essential business residents to stay home and stop the spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus.

The announcement came on the same day Miami University President Gregory Crawford informed students and staff that a “member of the Miami community” tested positive for COVID-19. That person was last on campus on March 19 and is now self-isolating in a different state, he said.

“We are working with the Butler County Health Department to identify anyone with whom they were in close personal contact,” Crawford wrote. “Those individuals will be contacted and given direction.”

Bailer told the Journal-News it is critical that people start understanding the gravity of the situation. She said the state director of public health says Ohio has seven to 10 days to get the spread “as much under control as possible,” to avoid more severe consequences.

“My message for people now is stay the heck at home,” she said. “Help us to flatten the curve and decrease the number of people who get sick with this disease. People need to stay home.”

Bailer noted there could be more patients with the disease because there are private entities doing testing and might not have reported cases.

Bailer has been meeting with the county commissioners during their Monday meetings to give them updates on the pandemic. She has also started posting updates, with the number of positive cases, people quarantined and other information, on the health district’s website. New reports will be available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday after 2:30 p.m at health.bcohio.us.

On Monday, Bailer told the commissioners she and others are working on finding locations to house sick people if the hospitals overflow. She said there are still rooms at the county’s hospitals after elective surgical procedures were curtailed. Likewise since Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones started releasing low-level, non-violent inmates from the jail there is room there as well. Dorm rooms and hotels have also been identified as overflow locations if a surge comes to the county. Homeless shelters and tents are also a possibility.

She said she feels they have accomplished this planning phase.

“We are trying to do all of our planning ahead of time so should it come to that we are ready to move immediately,” she said. “Our hope is that we do not need to use any of these plans but we don’t want to be caught up short.”

The next issue is whether there will be enough medical personnel to treat all those people.

“That will be our next task,” Bailer said.

The Butler County commissioners also plan to hold weekly press conferences with updates from Bailer and Emergency Management Agency Director Matt Haverkos and possibly others. The first will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

“The commissioners want a medium to share the efforts the county has incorporated to reduce the exponential spread and to care for its residents,” County Administrator Judi Boyko said.

Haverkos said the Emergency Operations Center has been busy collecting and distributing personal protective equipment, among other duties. There is a severe shortage of N95 masks nationwide but the director said the county is in good shape for now.

“The Strategic National Stockpile that was sent to us was less than our allotment will be or should be long-term,” he said. “It’s coming in multiple small shipments. So in Butler County we’ve provided PPE to all first response communities, police, fire and EMS and all of the hospital community sand opened it up to all the long-term care facilities who need it.”

Staff Writer Michael D. Clark contributed to this story

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