Gov. Mike DeWine has announced the release of guidance for institutions of higher learning across the state, following a collaborative effort between Ohio’s colleges and universities, as well as the likes of the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and health experts.

“The guidance we are releasing today at coronavirus.ohio.gov includes minimum operating standards that should occur on all campuses, as well as best practices to further enhance those standards,” Gov. DeWine said during the Thursday, July 9 COVID-19 press conference. “Each campus must develop policies and procedures for COVID-19 testing and isolation of symptomatic students, faculty and staff members. Testing of symptomatic individuals should take priority over all other testing tactics.”

The sector-specific operating requirements for Ohio’s institutions of higher learning are, as stated previously, available at coronavirus.ohio.gov. Some of the areas addressed include facilities/sanitation, points of contact, dining facilities, residence halls, campus visitors, study abroad and face coverings. With regard to mask usage, it is stated that all campus employees would be required to wear a facial covering (a number of exceptions are also listed), and for students, masks fall under the “best recommended practices” category. This mirrors the guidance issued for K-12 schools.

Gov. DeWine said Thursday that he understands the budgetary implications the issuance of these mandates and recommendations represent to colleges and universities, as well as to K-12 schools across the state.

“We know that COVID-19 prevention efforts and safety precautions will cause costs at schools to be more expensive than in years past,” he stated. “We want to help with these increasing costs. I’ve spoken with leadership in the General Assembly, and we are requesting that the Controlling Board approve our initial request on Monday to allocate $200 million for higher education and $100 million for K-12 educational institutions.”

This funding, Gov. DeWine continued, stems from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars. He added state officials intend for this funding to be very flexible to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that schools would be able to use it to meet their unique individual needs.

“We intend to make this funding available to all public and private K-12 schools and to all of our two- and four-year colleges and universities, both public and private, including adult career tech providers,” said Gov. DeWine. “Our request to the Controlling Board is in addition to the more than $440 million in direct federal CARES Act funding that our K-12 schools are receiving. The state’s colleges and universities also received more than $190 million of direct federal funding.”

On the topic of funding, Gov. DeWine likewise announced $15 million in grant funding for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO). This, he explained, is in addition to $1 million the coalition received in April.

The newest COVID-19 reporting tool from the ODH, the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, was another area of focus Thursday, as Gov. DeWine announced the total of counties in the Red or Level 3 Public Emergency category had risen from seven on Tuesday to 12. Cases continue to rise, as evidenced by a number of the trends the governor addressed, including the number of COVID-19 patients currently receiving medical care in hospitals across Ohio, which has increased from 619 on June 26 to 905. He added that the state’s positivity rate was reportedly 6.4 percent on July 7, which is the highest that number has been since May 25.

As of Thursday, the counties of Fairfield, Franklin, Pickaway, Clermont, Hamilton, Butler, Montgomery, Wood, Lorain, Cuyahoga, Summit and Trumbull were under the Red Level 3 distinction. Of those 12 counties, Butler, Hamilton and Cuyahoga are labeled as being on the “watch list” as they are approaching Level 4 or Purple status, according to Gov. DeWine. Franklin County was listed Tuesday, July 7 as being on the watch list, but has since been removed, and Butler County has moved to Level 2 or Orange since that time. Jackson and Vinton counties remain in the Level 1 or Yellow category.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced a $2.5 million grant opportunity dubbed the Individual Micro-credential Assistance Program (IMAP).

“This grant application is open to training providers, such as universities, colleges, Ohio technical centers, or private sector training businesses,” he said.

The lieutenant governor also addressed the need for blood plasma donations in Ohio.

“Convalescent plasma, which is plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, is rich in antibodies that could possibly attack the virus that causes COVID-19,” Husted explained. “It shows promise to lessen the severity or shorten the length of COVID-19. People who have been fully recovered from COVID-19 for at least two weeks are encouraged to consider donating plasma.”

As for statistics, Gov. DeWine reported that, as of Thursday, there were 57,506 confirmed cases, 3,825 probable cases, 8,570 cumulative hospitalizations, 2,146 cumulative intensive care unit admissions, 2,749 confirmed deaths and 257 probable deaths. The number of presumed recoveries had not been updated from the previous day (July 8).