DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Officials with Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County held a news conference Thursday afternoon to give an update on COVID-19 response in the area.
Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper was joined by Mayor Nan Whaley, Sarah Hackenbracht with the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, and Public Health Medical Director Michael Dohn, MD.
As of Thursday afternoon, 213 COVID-19 cases were reported to the state out of Montgomery County, leading to 74 hospitalizations and eight deaths.
Cooper says Public Health was thrilled with DeWine’s announcement that he wanted to implement a phased approach to reopen Ohio’s economy by May 1.
“When the economy suffers, public health suffers and our health status of a population suffers,” Cooper said, adding that despite plans to reopen businesses, the use of masks and social distancing will likely remain in place in some form for quite some time.
Cooper says Montgomery County should be proud of the work each citizen has done to help flatten the curve.
Mayor Whaley issued a word of caution regarding DeWine’s announcement.
“There are still significant issues that we have to work through to open, as the Commissioner said. We still don’t have enough PPE in this community,” said Whaley. She says as long as area hospitals are still asking for donations of PPE, it means we do not have enough.
The Mayor says that even if DeWine allows people to start going back to work, “We will still encourage people not to go out unless they absolutely necessarily have to.”
She continued, “This is still going to be among us and we still are not going to have the tools that we need in this community to keep people safe and keep them alive.”
Whaley referenced the typical airport experience before and after 9/11 when describing what life could be like moving forward once the stay at home orders are lifted, saying that social interactions that were once normal will not be the same.
While Sarah Hackenbracht says area hospitals are eager to see some restrictions lifted, caution will still be needed. She cites the availability of PPE and testing as challenges the healthcare system continues to face.
“Widespread rapid testing is something that we are working toward right here within the Dayton region. Rapid testing means the ability to return the tests, conduct the tests in less than 24 hours right here in the Dayton area,” she said.
Public Health Medical Director Michael Dohn says if the restrictions are lifted thoughtfully, this could minimize overall suffering.
“If we take the restrictions off too soon then cases are going to rise, it will cause a different kind of suffering with more illness and death, possibly overwhelming the health care system. That would also mean that other medical conditions couldn’t be taken care of, heart attacks and other sorts of things, that could be bad for all of us and increase suffering,” he said.
On the other hand, if things are extended too long, Dohn acknowledges that there could be economic suffering, in addition to medical suffering in cases of patients who cannot have certain procedures done due to elective surgeries being halted. Suffering in the form of mental health issues and domestic violence issues are also at play, he says.
He says that as the restrictions are slowly lifted, while more people will still catch the virus, this could give healthcare systems an opportunity to better treat patients as they will not be overwhelmed with other cases.
“I think we just need to hang on a little longer, stay compliant with what this gradual release of the restrictions is going to be, and I hope that through that we can all help to minimize the suffering for all of us in this community,” he said.
Cooper says that whatever the next health crisis may bring, the community stands ready to protect its citizens.
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