In the last 24 hours, confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ohio spiked by 20 percent and two more people have died. And on a regional level, a second case now has been confirmed in Southeastern Ohio.

In its daily update, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reported that confirmed cases of the coronavirus had risen to 704, a notable increase from the 564 reported on Tuesday. Also, related hospitalizations increased from 145 on Tuesday to 182 on Wednesday. Two more related deaths were also logged to bring the total coronavirus death toll to 10 as of Wednesday.

Confirmed cases of the coronavirus have now been reported in 55 of the 88 counties, with Southeastern Ohio being mostly spared -- at least in terms of confirmed cases. However, the first area case which was reported in Gallia County turned out to also be the first area fatality when that sad news was reported Tuesday morning.

The second confirmed coronavirus case in Southeastern Ohio was reported Wednesday afternoon in Lawrence County by the Lawrence County Health Department. The patient has not required hospitalization and reportedly had no travel history where he or she might have been exposed.

In his daily press briefing Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton both warned the worst is yet to come. The governor used the word “surge” referring to additional cases that are anticipated and Dr. Acton warned that what has happened so far “is only the tip of the iceberg.” She indicated that the limited testing in the state thus far has resulted in some cases not yet being detected or confirmed.

Further, Dr. Acton noted 20 percent of the confirmed cases in the state have resulted in hospitalizations and 11 percent are in intensive care units. The breakdown by sex for the confirmed cases were 371 males and 334 females. She also reported there had been 14,764 tests taken, but she did not reveal how many of the results were “negative” and how many results were not yet determined.

One of the challenges the state faces is taking steps to see that there is an adequate number of hospital and intensive care beds ready when more hospitalizations occur.

“We have to take pressure off our healthcare system,” Dr. Acton stated. “We know we are going to have to double our ICU capacity.”

Another related step taken by the state, DeWine noted, is that elective surgeries at medical facilities have been indefinitely postponed. Efforts are also still ongoing to preserve and increase the supply of personal protective equipment (surgical face masks and the like) which will be needed as more and more coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations occur.

DeWine also expressed appreciation to the U.S. Congress and the Ohio General Assembly for the relief legislation which has been approved or is pending.

Later Wednesday, DeWine issued the following statement after the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 197, which will enact numerous provisions to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic:

“I want to thank Senate President Obhof, House Speaker Householder, Minority Leaders Sykes and Yuko, and all members of the Ohio General Assembly who worked for the bipartisan and unanimous passage of House Bill 197. This bill will ensure continuity of government, extended mail-in voting for our primary, clarity for schools and students, relief to workers impacted by COVID-19, and measures to make sure we are prepared to help Ohioans get back to work when this pandemic subsides. I applaud the collaborative work on this bill and look forward to signing it soon.”

Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted addressed Dr. Acton’s “stay-at-home” order of March 23 in regard to the ordered closing of “non-essential” businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order specified a broad list of “essential” businesses, but did not specifically define “non-essential” in relation to the order. The tone grew sterner when he declared businesses should not contact local law enforcement agencies and health departments to interpret the stay-at-home order. He also advised using the ODH’s designated hotline for coronavirus questions: 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).

“Read the order,” Husted directed, “and use your own judgments to make determinations.” He advised businesses in the question-mark category to prepare a document stating the reasons why the business is “essential” to operate. “Somebody will call you out and you will have that documentation ready, providing a rationale,” he said.

To lend a message of hope to the proceedings, DeWine noted that he was wearing a baseball tie to recognize that this was supposed to be the Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds, which had originally been set for Thursday, March 26.

“We will play baseball again,” DeWine said. “We just have to hang in there and get through this.”