Coronavirus pandemic timeline

Staff reports

Jan. 20, 2020: The first coronavirus case in America was reported in Washington state.

Jan. 24, 2020: Dr. Amy Acton asked for doctors to report any cases of the coronavirus to the Ohio Department of Health immediately. There were no cases in Ohio at this point. There were cases in Washington state and Chicago. There were some 800 confirmed cases and 25 deaths worldwide.

Jan. 29, 2020: Allen County Public Health stated it was working in cooperation with the ODH and the CDC. Health Commissioner Kathy Luhn urged residents to wash hands or use hand sanitizer when water was not available, cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your face, stay home when ill and avoid contact with sick people. Anyone who had traveled to the epicenter of Wuhan, China, or had been in contact with someone who was being screened for coronavirus were asked to monitor their health for two weeks. Those who developed respiratory symptoms should call their doctors for instructions.

Feb. 24, 2020: The ODH asked about 175 people who arrived in Ohio from China to self-quarantine for 14 days. This group did not spread illness.

Feb. 29, 2020: The first person in America died of COVID-19. He lived in a nursing home in Washington state, and he had not traveled and had no known contact with a person who was infected. The West Coast began to panic-buy supplies. The U.S. had about 60 confirmed cases. Worldwide, the number of people sickened with the virus was about 83,000. There were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.

March 1, 2020: Rhode Island reported its first case. He had traveled to Italy.

March 3, 2020: GOJO Industries, the Akron-based makers of Purell hand sanitizer and other items, announced it was ramping up production to meet higher demand. Manufacturers across the state began increasing production of PPE.

March 4, 2020: Gov. Mike DeWine banned spectactors at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus.

March 6, 2020: The ODH opened a call center to answer questions about the coronavirus.

March 8, 2020: The Catholic Diocese of Toledo began telling its parishes to stop shaking hands in greeting, stop offering wine in a single chalice for a group or stop offering it altogether, and clean holy water fonts frequently.

March 9, 2020: Three cases were confirmed in the Cleveland area, and Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency. The local health department began to urge people to assume they were contagious. In-state testing had just become available, and people no longer had to have traveled outside the country to be eligible for a test. Anyone with flu-like symptoms were asked to self quarantine.

March 10, 2020: OHSAA tournament attendance was drastically restricted, and the games were televised. Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced 128 polling locations were going to be moved out of nursing homes for the March 17 primary, recommended people vote via mail and ordered boards of elections across the state to make curbside drop-off voting available.

March 11, 2020: Lima canceled its Irish Parade. The subsequent Irish Cruise was also canceled. DeWine had recommended any gathering of size be canceled. Rhodes State College stopped in-person classes, and most universities went virtual. The NBA suspended its season. Dr. Amy Acton ordered visits to nursing homes restricted to one person per resident each day. The coronavirus reached pandemic status.

March 12, 2020: DeWine ordered all schools, kindergarten through grade 12, closed for three weeks. He also banned gatherings of 100-plus people. The NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tournaments were canceled. The Lima Noon Optimists canceled its 72nd annual Home Show. Sports tournaments across high school and college levels were canceled. The NHL paused it season. Many local events began to be canceled or postponed.

March 13, 2020: President Donald Trump declared a national emergency. Many local businesses, courts, agencies and churches began limiting in-person gatherings and office hours. Hospitals began strict visitor policies, with no visitors allowed in most cases. The Toledo and Cincinnati dioceses dispensed Catholics of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for the rest of the month.

March 14, 2020: Ruler Foods reduced hours to allow for restocking and cleaning, which become common for all groceries. Columbus Grove canceled its prom, as did all schools in the region.

March 15, 2020: Allen County Public Health announced limited services, as workers were focusing on COVID-19. DeWine closed bars and restaurants at 9 p.m. Sunday, with eat-in dining off limits. Boards of elections announced early voting hours. Walmart announced reduced hours.

March 16, 2020: DeWine closed fitness centers and gyms, bowling alleys, public recreation centers, movie theaters and indoor water and trampoline parks. Catholics were dispensed from their obligation to attend Mass on Sundays through Easter. Safe gatherings were reduced to 50 from 100. The Lima Public Library closed, instructing people to keep their borrowed items until further notice.

March 17, 2020: Ohio ordered all elective surgeries stopped to preserve PPE. The primary election was postponed and was later held mainly by mail. Lima hospitals began the Community Call Center and asked residents to call for screening before visiting a doctor or emergency room. Dollar General announced the first hour of each day would be designated for seniors, a move most essential retail stores enacted.

March 18, 2020: Ohio closed barbers, hairdressers and tattoo parlors. DeWine asked businesses to monitor the temperatures of their workers. OSU and Ohio University postponed spring commencement.

March 19, 2020: Ohio’s first COVID-19 death was Toledo attorney Mark Wagoner Sr. More than 111,000 Ohioans had filed for unemployment in four days.

March 21: Ohio closed adult day services.

March 22: The Stay-At-Home Order was enacted and was in place through Memorial Day weekend. Ohioans were asked to stay home, non-essential businesses were closed, gatherings of more than 10 people were not allowed, only essential travel was allowed, and social distancing and sanitizing were encouraged to “flatten the curve.”

March 23, 2020: Ohio closed senior citizens centers. The Wapakoneta YMCA announced it would be operating as a pandemic child care site, providing free child care for medical personnel and first responders. Other child care centers in the area joined it in that designation, although child care remained an issue for parents working while their children were out of school.

March 24, 2020: Area funeral homes began limiting gatherings to 10 people or less.

March 25, 2020: Child care services were closed.

March 26, 2020: The COVID-19 data dashboard began on the ODH website at DeWine urged people to donate extra PPE.

March 27, 2020: Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Logan, Mercer and Shelby counties reported their first cases. Not all were residents of those counties. Statewide, there were 1,137 confirmed cases and 19 deaths. Trump signed a $2.2 trillion rescue package into law.

March 29, 2020: Trump extended the voluntary national shutdown for a month, bowing to public-health experts. From the Rose Garden, he said his Easter revival hopes had only been “aspirational.” The initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government was extended to April 30. Country singer Joe Diffie, who was the first country star to go public with his diagnosis, died of COVID-19.

March 30, 2020: Ohio closed schools until May 1. The FDA allowed Battelle to deploy a mask-sanitizing system for 160,000 masks per day. It was originally only allowed to do 10,000, and DeWine lobbied for a change.

April 1, 2020: Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hobby Lobby, telling the craft store chain it must shut down again after it reopened Monday.

April 2, 2020: The first death in the region was reported, in Mercer County. The stay-at-home order was extended until May 1. Stores began limiting the number of shoppers. Anyone coming into Ohio should quarantine for 14 days. Wedding receptions of more than 10 people were closed, as were campgrounds, pools, camps and adult and youth sports. Catholic Masses were on hold until May 3.

April 3, 2020: The CDC urged Americans to wear nonmedical masks. The state unveiled its coronavirus shutdown-related job search website.

April 4, 2020: DeWine expanded telehealth in Ohio. Meijer announced the installation of plexiglass and additional signage, among other measures, and many businesses did the same.

April 5, 2020: DeWine and Acton urged but did not require mask use, explaining it helped slow the spread. The first Ohio prison inmate tested positive.

April 7, 2020: The first death in Allen County was reported. He was a 92-year-old man who had underlying health problems. DeWine announced early releases for non-violent offenders. Restaurants were allowed to serve two alcoholic drinks per carryout order.

April 8, 2020: U.S. Plastic Corp. and BRP Manufacturing, both in Lima, stepped up to make face shields for staff at Lima Memorial Health System and Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center. Many businesses helped with PPE in similar ways.

April 9, 2020: Auglaize and Hancock counties reported their first deaths. The state announced that between March 15 and April 4, 696,000 Ohioans filed for unemployment. This was more jobless claims than filed in all of 2019.

April 13, 2020: Putnam County reported its first case. It was the last in the region to do so. Walmart expanded grocery pick-up hours. Fresh Encounter stores, which include Chief Markets, started one-way aisles. Ohio Department of Job and Family Services were about to begin processing the additional $600 a week payments authorized by the federal CARES Act.

April 16, 2020: ODH released a list of long-term care facilities with cases, and several nursing homes in the area were on this list. Ohio changed its counting to include “probable” COVID-19 infections without a positive test. At this point, Ohio had more than 8,400 cases and 389 deaths. Of those, more than 2,300 people needed to be hospitalized, and more than 700 needed ICU care.

April 19, 2020: Protesters began gathering at the Ohio Statehouse to demand that DeWine reopen the economy.

April 20, 2020: DeWine announced schools will continue by remote for the rest of the school year.

April 21, 2020: Cancellations of events included the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the running of the bulls in Spain and Munich’s Oktoberfest.

April 22, 2020: Some small businesses said they woouldn’t be able to bring back all of their laid-off workers back, despite receiving the Paycheck Protection Program that was intended for that purpose. Autopsy results from two February deaths in northern California suggest the coronavirus was circulating there in January. Tyson Foods closed a large pork plant in Iowa after a viral outbreak.

April 24, 2020: Limaland Motorsports Park postponed the start of its race season.

April 28, 2020: Every county in Ohio had COVID-19 cases. Catholic Masses were suspended through May 29. The Department of Education recommended schools hold virtual graduation ceremonies.

May 1, 2020: Outpatient procedures at hospitals were allowed, as were some procedures requiring overnight stays. Dentists and veterinarians were allowed to work. Staff and Independence Elementary in Lima held a neighborhood drive-by parade to visit students, a type of event that many in the area employed to celebrate birthdays and milestones.

May 4, 2020: Offices and manufacturing were allowed to reopen if they followed these rules: Require face coverings; conduct daily health assessments; maintain good hygiene; clean and sanitize; and limit capacity to meet social distancing to 50% of fire code. Manufacturers had to keep 6 feet between people or install barriers. They were also asked to disinfect desks and workstations as well as stagger work shifts, breaks and lunches.

May 9, 2020: “A Night to Remember” virtual prom was held via

May 10, 2020: ONU held a virtual graduation ceremony via Facebook. Events in the area began to be livestreamed regularly.

May 11, 2020: The Lima Public Library reopened for limited curbside service.

May 12, 2020: Consumer and retail services reopened. Employees were required to wear a mask. Customers were recommended to wear a mask.

May 13, 2020: Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan Park District announced the Ottawa Metro Park beach would not open for the 2020 season.

May 15, 2020: Restaurants for dining outside, tattoo parlors, nd hair salons and barbers were reopened.

May 18, 2020: DeWine said local law enforcement, coordinated with the Department of Public Safety’s Ohio Investigative Unit, will begin doing safety compliance checks in crowded areas. They could issue administration citations, which could result in the revocation of liquor licenses.

May 20, 2020: The Bureau of Workers Compensation mailed masks to BWC members to help members’ employees.

May 21, 2020: Inside dining at restaurants was allowed. Campgrounds reopened.

May 22, 2020: Schools for ages kindergarten to grade 12 closed to June 30. Lima Senior announced it would use a drive-thru graduation program, with last names A through G at 6 p.m. Friday, May 22; H through M at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 23; and N through Z noon Saturday, May 23. Macy’s reopened in Lima.

May 26, 2020: Fitness centers and sports centers, including bowling alleys, reopened. The Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices throughout the state reopened. Driver’s licenses and license plates didn’t expire.

May 28, 2020: Testing of residents and staff at long-term care centers was required.

May 29, 2020: DeWine allowed Junior Fair competitions at fairs to be held to allow the youth to show their projects. Grandstand events and rides were later canceled altogether.

May 31, 2020: Child care centers reopened. Catholic Masses restarted, with the dispensation from needing to attend still in effect.

June 1, 2020: Catering and banquet halls reopened, with a crowd size limited to 300. They were required to follow rules about spacing. Bradfield Community Center began drive-thru coronavirus testing.

June 2, 2020: Non-essential surgery restrictions were lifted.

June 10, 2020: Aquariums, art galleries, country clubs, ice skating rinks, indoor family entertainment centers, indoor sports facilities, laser tag facilities, indoor movie theaters, museums, outdoor playgrounds, public recreation centers, roller skating rinks, social clubs, trampoline parks and zoos reopened.

June 11, 2020: Dr. Amy Acton resigned. Critics had been vocal, including protesting at her home.

June 15, 2020: Bradfield Community Center restarted its sports programming.

June 16, 2020: The Allen County Museum reopened, followed by Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Lima Public Library and Putnam County District Library.

July 9, 2020: Area counties went to a Level 2.

July 10, 2020: Ford Motor Co. announced it will begin testing hourly and salaried employees with suspected COVID-19 symptoms at its Lima and Cleveland plants. ODH warned of methanol-tainted hand sanitizer.

July 16, 2020: Allen County went to a Level 3, meaning masks are required for anyone out in public.

July 20, 2020: In-person outdoor visitations at nursing homes began.

July 23, 2020: DeWine ordered residents to wear masks when in public across the state. He began recommending self-quarantine after traveling to certain states, a list that would be updated weekly.

July 31, 2020: The Ohio Liquor Control board voted to stop all alcohol sales in Ohio at 10 p.m. each night. Alcohol purchased by 10 p.m. would be required to be consumed by 11 p.m. Three alcoholic to-go drinks were allowed instead of two.

Aug. 1, 2020: St. Gerard Drive-thru Wingfest was held. Many events in the region that had to be canceled because of large crowds pivoted to a drive-thru or virtual style.

Aug. 4, 2020: DeWine introduced a new system to rank counties on the occurrence of COVID-19 in the past two weeks, then figured out how many cases that would be if the county had 100,000 residents. The highest name on the list was Mercer County, at 230.4 cases per 100,000 from July 21 to Aug. 3. Allen County was 11th on the list, at 111 cases per 100,000 people. Hancock County was fifth. DeWine also required most students wear masks in schools, except for those younger than age 2. The Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation announced Van Wert Live staff will be furloughed.

Aug. 6, 2020: DeWine announced he tested positive for coronavirus but was asymptomatic. He and his wife, Fran, tested negative for COVID-19 in a PCR test administered by The Ohio State University. DeWine tested positive in a rapid antigen test given before a visit with President Trump, then he and his wife had negative PCR tests.

Aug. 13, 2020: Allen County moved to Level 2.

Aug. 18, 2020: DeWine announced fall sports would be allowed, if each district decides to do so. Spectators were limited.

Aug. 20, 2020: Free pop-up testing by the Ohio National Guard was at The Ohio State University-Lima/Rhodes State campus. A doctor’s order was not required, which made it different than other testing sites. Six people tested positive of the 230 people who were tested there.

Sept. 1, 2020: Putnam County moved to the No. 1 spot in Ohio counties ranked by highest occurrence. The county had 79 cases from Aug. 17 to Aug. 30, but when judged per 100,000 in population it amounts to 233.3 cases, the highest in the state. Auglaize County was at No. 10, at 76 cases and a per capita rate of 166.5. DeWine said Putnam County’s increase came from social settings and family gatherings, including 10 cases associated with a large golf outing on Aug. 21. Mercer County often ranked high as well.

Sept. 17, 2020: The first documented case of the flu in the state occurred in Putnam County, according to Gov. DeWine. He urged people to get flu shots.

Sept. 29, 2020: The Lima Noon Optimist Club decided to cancel its annual Trick or Treat event held at Safety City. “We could not figure a way to safely social distance in the large lines that we have at Safety City,” chairman Bob Laman wrote in a letter. Most trick or treating went on as usual in the area.

Oct. 12, 2020: Indoor visitation at nursing homes began. Residents were allowed two visitors per visit for 30 minutes, at the discretion of the center.

Oct. 21, 2020: Ottawa-Glandorf schools switched to a hybrid learning model after 41 students were out with contract tracing and two positive cases. Four staff members were out, with three positive cases. Half of the students will attend in person twice a week. Classes were canceled Friday and Monday for staff training on the changes. Districts in the area made similar changes, implementing hybrid learning or remote learning at various times.

Oct. 22, 2020: Allen, Hardin, Mercer and Putnam counties were at Level 3, with Auglaize and Van Wert at Level 2. The following week, Auglaize County was also at Level 3.

Nov. 6, 2020: The Auglaize County Health Department announced there may be a delay in its ability to contact positive COVID-19 cases and their contacts because of the increase in cases and limited resources. It urged people to isolate at home and notify their close contacts themselves. Area health departments struggled to contact trace in a timely fashion.

Nov. 12, 2020: All area counties except Van Wert County were at Level 3 (red). Van Wert County was at Level 2 (orange).

Nov. 17, 2020: DeWine issued a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly. The Allen County Sheriff’s Office announced it would not enforce it. DeWine asked people to refrain from getting together in large groups for Thanksgiving.

Dec. 1, 2020: Huntington Bank branch lobbies closed. Some businesses and agencies had closed their lobbies at the beginning of the pandemic and kept them closed. Some reopened their lobbies when numbers leveled off in summer and started to close them again when numbers rose.

Dec. 3, 2020: All area counties were at Level 3.

Dec. 5, 2020: ODH adopted new CDC quarantine guidance. A shorter quarantine period was allowed if people met certain circumstances.

Dec. 6, 2020: A pop-up testing was held at the Putnam County Fairgrounds, 1490 S. Agner St., Ottawa. Of the 345 people tested, 103 tested positive.

Dec. 7, 2020: A pop-up testing was held at UNOH Event Center, Lima.

Dec. 21, 2020: Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center received nearly 1,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Lima Memorial Health System began vaccinating employees the next day. The Putnam County Health Department reported receiving a shipment as well. Phase 1A was frontline healthcare workers and workers and residents in long-term care homes.

Dec. 27, 2020: Trump signed a $900 billion pandemic relief package.

Dec. 31, 2020: The toll in Ohio as the year ended was high. There were more than 600,000 positive cases and 8,000 dead.

Jan. 10, 2021: The Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections began administering vaccines to both staff members and incarcerated individuals who were assigned to long-term care units at the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima.

Jan. 14, 2021: Scheduling began in the area for Phase 1B vaccinations. Priority was by age, with the oldest residents eligible first, K-12 teachers and people with severe conditions.

Jan. 28, 2021: DeWine extended the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew until Feb. 11.

Jan. 26, 2021: Allen County surpassed 10,000 confirmed coronavirus infections for the first time since reporting started last March.

Feb. 11, 2021: The indoor dining curfew was lifted.

Feb. 12, 2021: Buffets and self-serve stations were allowed to reopen.

Staff reports

Sources: The Lima News, Associated Press,

Sources: The Lima News, Associated Press,

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