Ahead of releasing a "preliminary report" on the recommendations of his 41-person Minority Health Strike Force, Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday, May 21, announced several moves to begin addressing the disparity of coronavirus impacts and outcomes experienced by Ohio's minority communities.
- A $1 million federal grant will be used to address mental health issues among difficult-to-reach populations, whether urban or Appalachian, but especially among people of color.
- A new "Stay in the Fight" messaging campaign aims to keep minority communities informed, involved and inspired in the effort to combat COVID-19. "Stay in the Fight" kits will be distributed, containing face coverings, hand sanitizer and information.
- A new position will be created in the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) focused on the social determinants of health.DeWine said that two new interactive tools have been added to the state's coronavirus website. One is an interactive map providing county-level COVID-19 data broken down by racial and ethnic background. The second is an "Ohio Opportunity Index" offering data statewide and by county based on seven factors affecting health and well-being. Those data sets are available for use by nonprofits, researchers and citizens.
The governor said the Minority Health Strike Force's full report will be released in June. He added that among its preliminary recommendations are a need for culturally appropriate coronavirus notifications, increased testing capacity (especially at community health centers), better data to prioritize resource allocation, and culturally sensitive statewide communications to communities of color.
Noting that African Americans comprise 13% of Ohio's population yet represent 26% of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 17% of those who have died from it, DeWine said, "It should be unacceptable to every Ohioan that in 2020 in Ohio ZIP code determines how long you will live, how well you will live."
On other fronts, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced that in addition to previously announced no- and low-contact sports leagues (such as golf, baseball and softball), bowling alleys, mini-golf and batting-cage facilities can reopen May 26. Guidelines can be found online, except for bowling, which should be posted tomorrow.
Also, after consulting with the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the state will allow spring and summer skills training for all other sports (including football, basketball and lacrosse) to resume May 26. Guidelines for those sports can be found on the Responsible RestartOhio portion of the state's coronavirus website. School buildings and facilities can be used for training and conditioning, subject to the state's protocols and each school district's own rules of operation.
However, tournaments, scrimmages and actual games in those sports cannot yet resume.
Husted also said that catering operations and banquet centers can resume events June 1, within the same limitations imposed for reopening restaurants. Social distancing will need to be observed, and crowd sizes will be capped at 300.
The latest report from the ODH indicates the state has 28,174 confirmed and 1,993 probable cases of COVID-19, for 30,167 total. Of those, 5,295 people have been hospitalized, 1,397 of them in intensive care. More than 297,000 Ohioans have been tested to date. There have been 1,653 confirmed deaths in Ohio and 183 probable related deaths, for a total of 1,836 fatalities in the state.
This article was originally published in Crain's Cleveland Business.