- Associated Press - Monday, March 30, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday extended the Ohio schools’ shutdown order until May 1 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, while a federal judge said a state ban on elective surgery was unconstitutional if it prevented abortions from being carried out.

A look at virus-related developments in Ohio on Monday:



After pushback from DeWine, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Columbus-based private research lab Battelle to deploy a system in Ohio, New York and Washington state that can sanitize 160,000 face masks a day. The FDA initially approved only 10,000 masks a day.

In central Ohio, the Franklin County Public Health Department said it was accepting “home sewn masks” along with manufactured personal protective equipment.



A prison employee at the Marion Correctional Institution tested positive for the coronavirus, officials reported, marking the first such occurrence in Ohio. Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court was considering a lawsuit by an inmate seeking release from Belmont Correctional Facility over fears of the virus.



More than 1,900 cases are confirmed, with 39 deaths as of Monday and nearly 500 people hospitalized, officials reported. That doesn’t reflect all cases in Ohio, because the state limits testing to those who are hospitalized and to health care workers.

Six deaths now have been linked to virus outbreaks at a pair of nursing homes in Miami County, just north of Dayton, the local health department said Monday.

Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton urged hospitals to send completed tests to the state instead of private labs for faster results.

For most people, COVID-19 displays mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can be more severe, causing pneumonia or death.



The state has updated its Support Local Ohio website promoting Ohio businesses with online options across the state and allowing businesses to create their own listings.



At Miami University, officials are already considering the possibility the pandemic will prevent students from returning to campus next fall, with an email to department heads soliciting suggestions for more courses to be taught online and discussing an expected sharp drop in attendance, according to The Enquirer.



Federal Judge Michael Barrett ruled late Monday that a state order banning elective surgeries is unconstitutional if it prevents abortions from being carried out. The judge, ruling on a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood and two abortion clinics, ordered clinics to determine on a case-by-case basis if an abortion can be delayed to maximize resources - such as preserving personal protective equipment - needed to fight the coronavirus. If the abortion is deemed necessary and can’t be delayed, it’s deemed legally essential, Barrett ruled.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said he was considering an appeal or issuing a newer, narrower order regarding elective surgeries and abortions.



Voting rights groups have filed suit to extend Ohio primary election voting past the new April 28 date set last week. The ACLU of Ohio, Demos and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law argue on behalf of voters and voting rights groups, including the League of Women Voters, that the timeline and process laid out for conducting the primary will prevent thousands from voting and unconstitutionally burden the right to vote. The new date was included in a coronavirus relief package passed Wednesday and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday. DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose advocated holding in-person voting on June 2, but were overridden by the Republican-led Legislature. The groups who sued are asking the state be ordered to directly mail primary ballots to all registered voters and to set the voter registration date 30 days prior to the primary, among other things.



U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said he is donating two months of his Senate salary to organizations helping to fight the pandemic in Ohio. The multimillionaire Republican said he wants to help individuals and businesses struggling to stay financially afloat. The roughly $29,000 will be divided among five regional groups: the Cleveland Foundation COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, the Columbus Foundation Emergency Response Fund, the United Way and Greater Cincinnati Foundation local nonprofit fund, the Southeast Ohio Food Bank and the Greater Toledo Community Foundation COVID-19 Response.



Organizers postponed the annual Taste of Cincinnati food festival until July, while fashioning a “virtual Taste” for April 3-5. People are urged to order carryout, drive-thru or delivery dishes from festival participants, and bands who were scheduled to perform will play livestream concerts. Chefs will give cooking demonstrations online. T-shirts to benefit local businesses are being sold with the slogan: “Carry out, Carry on, Cincinnati.”


Associated Press writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati, Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, and John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.

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