As COVID Cases, Hospitalizations and Deaths Rise, Ohio Independent Agency Leaders Should Ready for Another Shutdown

The data is not good. U.S. and Ohio COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising at the highest levels on record. As The New York Times chart shows, during the past two weeks, the US has experienced a 54% increase in cases, 64% increase in deaths and 50% increase in hospitalizations.

Ohio now has more than 351K cases, 24K hospitalizations and 6K deaths. Concern is growing over capacity at hospitals and ICUs and stamina of healthcare providers to keep up with the growing demand and cases. According to state officials, “there are 3,829 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Ohio, with 943 of those individuals in the ICU. These are the highest patient counts Ohio has had during the pandemic and more than double the hospitalizations recorded during previous peaks.”

While there is some good news with the progress of a vaccine from three pharmaceutical companies, public health experts are predicting that it will be springtime before there is widespread distribution of it to have a meaningful impact on population health.

All levels of government are issuing new orders and restrictions on businesses, social distancing and gatherings. Public health officials are warning of a grim winter. Families are cancelling their annual Thanksgiving gatherings and schools are moving back into remote learning environments.

Ohio Issues 21-day Stay at Home Curfew

In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Stephanie McCloud ordered Ohioans to stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the 21-day (three-week) period from Nov. 19 through Dec. 10, 2020.

This 21-day curfew is intended to reduce COVID-19 spread, keep Ohioans safe, minimize the risk of major limitations or economic shutdowns, and reduce the impact on the healthcare and hospital system. The order does include exceptions for essential activities and religious obligations.

Franklin County Moves to Purple and Issues Stay at Home Advisory

Franklin County became the first Ohio county to move to purple on the state’s Ohio Public Health Advisory System map. This means Franklin County is considered a place where there is severe exposure and spread.

While it does not come with any additional state restrictions, but it is important to note that Franklin and a number of other high incidence counties, including Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Lucas, Medina, Montgomery and Summit (that we know of so far) have all issued local stay-at-home advisories. These call on residents to work from home, if possible, and to only go out for essential needs.

Be Prepared for a Shutdown

While OIA has and will continue to vigorously advocate for insurance agencies to remain open as essential businesses, we have seen recent actions in states across the country, including one most recently by our neighbors in Kentucky to require essential businesses to work from home if possible. In Kentucky, their Stay At Home order included a limitation on essential businesses to operate at a maximum capacity of 33% of their employees in the office.

We do not anticipate this happening in Ohio and it is important to note that there has been much disagreement between the Ohio General Assembly and Gov. DeWine about additional restrictions on businesses, schools and the public to deal with the COVID pandemic. The Legislature recently passed bills with veto-proof bi-partisan majorities to reduce the Governor’s power to impose restrictions on businesses and the public.

Despite this, we believe you should ready your agency for the possibility of being required to work remotely through many weeks of the winter. Please refer to OIA’s remote work toolkits to prepare your team and agency for working from home for an extended period of time.

As you continue your essential work in protecting your clients during this challenging time, we encourage everyone to do your part to prevent the spread by wearing masks, washing your hands frequently, as well as maintaining a safe social distance and conducting business virtually whenever possible.

If you have any questions, please contact Jeff Smith or Carolyn Mangas.

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