COLUMBUS, Ohio — Five cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Ohio so far, but top health officials believe the actual number is much higher.
According to Dr. Amy Acton, the Director of the Ohio Department of Health, roughly 1% of the state's population is believed to already be carrying the virus. In terms of population, that would equate to more than 100,000 people.
"Just the fact of community spread says at least 1% of the population is carrying the virus," Acton said in a Thursday press conference, alluding to the fact that two of the five patients contracted the virus through community spread. "That gives you a sense of how this virus spreads and is spreading quickly."
The vast majority of those people will not be terribly sick, and some may not even display overt symptoms. However, as carriers, they can transmit the illness to those who are more vulnerable.
To help stop the spread, Acton signed an order at the direction of Gov. Mike DeWine that bans most mass gatherings of more than 100 people. All K-12 schools in Ohio will also see a three-week spring break after class on Monday.
"As we can see, we're in a crisis situation now," Acton said. "Taking decisive action now will greatly slow down this disease and stop this trajectory."
The state says it has increase its available number of tests, and other facilities like the Cleveland Clinic are now able to test patients on-site. However, Acton and others are asking only those who really need treatment to seek it, so as not to overwhelm the system.
"If you're relatively healthy, you really can stay home," Acton said. "We need the sickest people right now going to our emergency rooms."
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 4,900 people worldwide, including 40 in the United States. None of those deaths have yet been in Ohio.