Nearly two months ago, Butler County and Ohio health officials held a press conference at Miami University and announced what the region had waited anxiously for days to hear: Coronavirus tests on two Miami students, who had traveled to China over winter break, were negative.
At the time, Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio Department of Health director, said no one in the state was under investigation for the coronavirus.
“What we are doing in Ohio is working,” Acton said Feb. 2, Super Bowl Sunday, at a press conference in Oxford that ended a week of uncertainty around campus.
Jennifer Bailer, Butler County General Health Department commissioner, said she had been “hoping and praying” for negative results. She said the public health agencies benefited from the students’ prompt actions when they reported their illness to Student Health Services.
“They did everything right,” she said. “The system worked.”
The thought at the time was if you hadn’t traveled to China — where the coronavirus was first reported — or come in contact with someone from that region, you were not in immediate danger of contacting the virus.
“We are on it,” Acton said. “We stand prepared. Only with that travel history (to China) or with a direct contact with someone under investigation are you truly at risk.”
Now, the state is reporting more than 800 confirmed cases of coronavirus that have led to 15 deaths. No deaths have been reported in Butler, Warren or Preble counties.
Jackie Phillips, Middletown’s health commissioner, said those two negative tests didn’t mean no one in Ohio wasn’t carrying the coronavirus at the time. She said there was limited testing in the state and anyone who had traveled to China or contacted someone who had visited there could have been a carrier.
The goal now, she said, is for people to remain in their homes and if they’re sick to let the coronavirus “die off.” She said once a person shows symptoms of the virus, it may take 21 days before they feel better.
If the person who has coronavirus doesn’t keep the proper six feet of social distancing, the virus can “jump from person to person to person,” Phillips said.
“We don’t want that,” she said.
There have been numerous developments the last eight weeks.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Acton make daily press conference appearances updating the public on the spread of the coronavirus, and the governor has virtually closed most businesses in the state. He has allowed “essential” businesses to remain open, but has told residents to remain at home except for the most critical needs.
Public and private schools and colleges have closed throughout the United States and students are taking classes online at home. Every sporting event, amateur and professional, has been postponed or cancelled.
The case involving the two Miami students was the first time someone in Ohio had been tested for coronavirus.
After returning to Oxford from the school’s six-week winter break, the students complained of flu-like symptoms on Jan. 27, the first day of classes. Their tests were sent to the Ohio Department of Health, then to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The students, who the university declined to identify, were cleared to “conduct normal activities” on Feb. 2, Bailer said.
Miami, which is Butler County’s largest employer, has canceled its spring commencement in May because of concerns about the coronavirus.
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