Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced this week that thousands of Ohio children, who qualify for free or reduced-price meals but are currently learning remotely, will soon receive additional money to purchase food through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program.
The P-EBT program is made possible by the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will issue this second round of benefits later this month to eligible children. Ohio previously issued more than $250 million in P-EBT benefits to more than 850,000 students through the program in the spring.
Parents do not need to apply to receive these benefits. The benefits will be automatically loaded onto existing Ohio Direction cards or a pre-loaded card will be sent in the mail.
NO FEMA CAMPS
Separately, in response to a barrage of rumors surrounding Ohio’s latest non-congregate sheltering order, DeWine on Tuesday stressed that there are no orders in Ohio to create “FEMA camps” to quarantine citizens against their will.
“This is not in our order and there is no truth to the rumor,” DeWine said. “Families will not be separated and kids will not be away from their loved ones.”
The order, which was first issued on March 31 and then renewed on April 29 and Aug. 31, creates a funding mechanism to allow for federal reimbursement for communities that choose to offer alternate locations for people to safely isolate or quarantine outside of their homes. If a citizen chooses to recover in a quarantine housing location, others in the household can remain at home and unexposed.
This option has been used in a handful of cases in Ohio.
SPORTS SPECTATOR VARIANCE
The Ohio Department of Health has granted a spectator variance to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, in Morrow County, taking place Sept. 11-13. Attendance will be limited to 6,000 spectators and social distancing and masks will be required in accordance with state health guidelines.
DeWine said the variance for Mid-Ohio was granted, in part, due to its unique, large outdoor facility that can accommodate social distancing.
The governor previously announced 6,000-spectator variances for the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals for two upcoming games each.
GET IN LINE, ONLINE
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted on Tuesday announced that the Ohio BMV received the Customer Convenience Award for its Get in Line, Online virtual queuing system, which allows a customer to secure a spot in line at the agency without actually being physically present. Once customers arrive to check-in, they move to the front of the line with minimal wait time.
InnovateOhio, which Husted leads, worked in partnership with the Ohio BMV on this project.
“InnovateOhio and the Ohio BMV collaborated on the Get in Line, Online system with the goal of using technology to improve customer service,” said Husted, a Montpelier native. “This award is a recognition that we are on our way to making Ohio the most innovative and creative state in the Midwest.”
CURRENT COVID-19 DATA
There are 132,965 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 4,324 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. A total of 14,083 people have been hospitalized, and 111,201 presumed recovered.
Williams County is reporting 170 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, with three confirmed and probable deaths. A total of 10 people have been hospitalized, and 147 are presumed recovered.
S. Carolina public health director no longer headed to Ohio
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Less than six hours after one of South Carolina’s top health officials was reported to be leaving to head Ohio’s health department, the governor of Ohio said she was withdrawing her name from consideration.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tweeted Thursday evening that Joan Duwve, who joined South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control as public health director in April, cited personal reasons in her decision to no longer pursue the job leading the Ohio Department of Health. The announcement followed tweets from DeWine earlier in the day naming Duwve to lead the agency.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.
“My understanding is that she has family in Ohio and she is going to be closer to her family,” acting DHEC Director Marshall Taylor had said at a news conference Thursday afternoon, following DeWine’s initial announcement. Taylor said he learned of the news the day of the announcement. “Actually, this is a promotion for Dr. Duwve, and so we’re very happy for her.”
Duwve is not the first high-ranking official who had plans to leave the state health department since the start of the outbreak. In May, director Rick Toomey announced he was stepping down for health reasons less than 15 months after he took over the agency.
State leaders also announced Thursday that a plan is in the works for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. They stressed, however, that there is no confirmed date for when such a vaccine will be available to the general public. That plan will prioritize high-risk individuals, frontline health care workers and critical infrastructure employees when limited doses of the vaccine first arrive, said Stephen White, the state’s immunization director.
The announcement follows a letter from federal health officials last month asking states to be prepared to begin distributing a vaccine by Nov. 1. White said the state health department aims to prepare a distribution plan for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the end of this month.
On Thursday, South Carolina health officials reported 264 new cases and 24 additional deaths. Still, experts warn numbers could rise again following Labor Day gatherings and the reopening of schools for in-person instruction. The state health department has counted more than 120,000 COVID-19 cases and 2,800 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Earlier in the day, Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, praised South Carolina for “real progress” since her last visit with Gov. Henry McMaster in July.
Birx visited the University of South Carolina in Columbia on Thursday as part of a tour of the states. She said a federal testing surge team would arrive in the coming week in Columbia — where the University of South Carolina has tracked more than 1,900 cases among students and employees since Aug. 1 — to implement widescale testing.
Also Thursday, McMaster issued recommendations to the state legislature on how to spend up to $763 million in the second phase of federal coronavirus relief funds. Those recommendations include replenishing the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund by $450 million, reimbursing state and municipal agencies for pandemic-related costs and providing grants for small business and non-profits that did not receive federal Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Michelle Liu is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.