WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Ohio’s largest single-site employer has joined Dayton area businesses and medical institutions in launching a grassroots effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Led by the Ohio Business Roundtable (OBRT), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has joined the Coalition to Stop the Spread, a campaign joined to date by more than 50 Ohio employers. The campaign aims to fight the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic impacts by asking employees to re-commit to social distancing practices.
Col. Patrick Miller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, was joined by presidents and CEOs of CareSource, Soin, Dayton Children’s Hospital, and others Wednesday morning, to express their commitment this initiative.
“We are here for the defense of our nation, but we are extraordinary because of this community,” Miller said. “We are all on the front lines of this fight.”
The coalition comes after Gov. Mike DeWine asked for the help of the Ohio private sector, according to OBRT CEO Pat Tiberi. Tiberi recalled a 6:30 a.m. phone call with the governer in October, in which DeWine said that his top-down approach was falling on deaf ears.
“There wasn’t any private sector coordination on this,” Tiberi said. “There was room for someone outside of state government, outside of public health to fill that gap.”
Miller noted that when he took command of Wright-Patterson in June, the state was seeing roughly 400 new cases a day. Since then, numbers of new cases per day have risen to the thousands. Dr. Nancy Pook, an emergency medicine physician for Kettering Health Network, said that having been on the front lines of COVID-19, treatment, Ohio hospitals are being overwhelmed. Between Nov. 11 and Nov. 24 alone, Ohio hospitals reported COVID-19 patient loads rising from 2,873 to 4,449.
“As an emergency physician, I’ve seen hundreds of people with COVID,” Pook said. “It crosses all ages and all risk factors.”
Pook described patients coming in dehydrated, dizzy, and suffering from lack of oxygen.
“I’m shocked that people aren’t wearing masks,” she said. “Not only are we struggling with beds and resources across the nation, doctors and nurses are getting sick, or have to quarantine, so often that hospitals don’t have enough people to treat patients.”
Area hospitals have contributed significantly to treatment and testing of COVID-positive patients during the past several months.
“Our adult hospitals have been on the front lines of this,” said Dayton Children’s CEO Deborah Feldman. Dayton Children’s Hospital has recently begun to take adult patients as a “relief valve” for those hospitals, Feldman said.
Vishal Soin, CEO of Soin Medical Center, said that though doctors in his organization have tested positive for COVID-19, there has been practically no spread of the virus in the workplace. Most of the hospital’s positive tests have come from small gatherings and community spread.
“As businesses we are doing the right thing, but in order to stop the spread, there needs to be grassroots efforts,” Soin said.
In his periodic coronavirus updates to the military community, Miller has recognized the proverbial COVID fatigue that plagues much of everyday people’s pandemic response. However, respect for the health of others and need for social connection can go hand in hand.
“If there were two words I could take out of this whole thing, it would be ‘social distancing.’ ” Miller said. “We need to maintain physical separation, but in this trying time we need to maintain social connection.”
CEOs of other regions of Ohio have similar initiatives planned in upcoming weeks, but coalition members emphasized that the return to normality lies not in the actions of CEOS, but in the actions of individuals. The coalition hopes to mobilize as many of Ohio’s over 5 million employees as they can in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“This is not a choice between our health and a strong economy; the two are strongly connected,” Tiberi said. “This virus is threatening not only lives, but also small businesses, employment opportunities, and the health and safety of Ohio’s workers. An Ohioan who contracts COVID-19 cannot go to work, provide for their families or support local businesses. We ask all Ohio employers to join us in this effort.”