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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

DeWine Seeks To Loosen Some Medicaid Requirements

Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced he is submitting a waiver application to the federal government asking for flexibility in Medicaid specifications in order to better combat the coronavirus. That includes such measures as allowing services to be provided at alternative locations and removing staffing level requirements.

If approved, the new requirements would be retroactive to March 1, 2020.

The waiver, known as 1135 or Appendix K, would include:

  • Bolstering telehealth and other technology to do health assessments and care planning
  • Waiving signature requirements for a variety of providers to ensure safe distancing without compromising access to care
  • Easing obstacles to access nursing home care
  • Allowing services to be provided at alternative locations
  • Removing staffing level requirements to give providers more flexibility

"Removing restrictions like these during this pandemic will allow health care workers to focus on meeting the needs of Ohioans," DeWine said.
DeWine did not say when he would hear whether the application would be granted or denied.

New Order For First Responders

Meanwhile, Ohio Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton provided the latest numbers on COVID-19 in the state:

  • 7,280 cases
  • 67,000 tests
  • 324 deaths, approximately 50 additional deaths since Monday
  • Present in 86 of Ohio's 88 counties

Acton noted that all of this data is lagged.
She also announced a new order allowing emergency dispatchers to tell first responders if a patient has a confirmed case of COVID-19. Acton says the order will allow EMS teams to better protect themselves. She added that first responders should always have some sort of mask when treating or transporting a patient.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones complained last month that first responders were denied the information, putting them at risk.

Acton closed her portion of the briefing with some sympathy – and kudos – to Ohioans who may be frustrated with abiding by the stay-at-home order in effect through May 1.

"I talked to Johns Hopkins, a colleague there … who said Ohio should be tremendously proud. We really, really have been a leader and we've won the first battle in a war. … We have won the first battle but we can't stop there."

She told a story of how this past holiday weekend was the first time in months she stood outside and talked to appropriately social-distanced friends.

"It is such an unprecedented time that is asking a marathon response from us," she said. "We're going to have good days and bad days; we're going to have anger. We're going to want to give up. We know we're moving into a new world that isn't the old way. But we're moving forward together and we're going to move forward smartly in this state."

Bill Rinehart contributed to this report.

Jennifer Merritt brings 20 years of "tra-digital" journalism experience to WVXU.