Friday Update: DeWine Delivers Good News on Expanded Testing in Ohio

COLUMBUS (News Talk 1480 WHBC) – Once again, Governor Mike DeWine along with other state leaders and health professionals spoke in Columbus this afternoon, providing updates on COVID-19 in Ohio. Here is a complete outline on everything that was discussed.

Update on Cases

The Ohio Department of Health’s (ODH) latest report shows a notable decrease in all major COVID-19 figures. Ohio is up to 15,169 total cases of COVID-19 and 690 deaths. The 475 new cases and 34 new fatalities are both below the state’s five day average.

More than 3,000 Ohioans have now been hospitalized from the coronavirus. Ohio is up to 3,053 total hospitalizations; 920 Ohioans have been admitted into the intensive care unit. Both the 93 hospitalizations and 20 ICU admissions reported in the past 24 hours were also under the five day average.

Over 107,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Ohio. The Buckeye State has a positive test rate of around 14%.

Update on Stark County

The state’s latest report shows four new deaths in Stark County. Stark’s death toll now sits at 34. 71 people are now hospitalized in the county. Stark County has a total of 294 coronavirus cases.

Foster Care Kids Taken Care of

Over the next three months, more than 200 youth will turn 18 and “age out” of our foster care system. Today, Governor DeWine  announced that the state will cover the costs for all of these youth to stay in care until this pandemic ends.

“For many of these young people, their future looks uncertain because of COVID-19,” DeWine said. “Whether their plan was to start a career or pursue higher education. This program will provide them with a safety net during these difficult times.”

DeWine says his administration is also making this option available for the young people in the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services Bridges program, which is the state’s foster care to age 21 program.

“Our young people turning 21 over the next few months can stay in Bridges to help them maintain their housing, jobs, and education,” said DeWine. “These changes will ensure that no child leaves care during this pandemic without a safe place to call home. I encourage county children services agencies, juvenile courts, and the foster youth, themselves, to take advantage of this new opportunity.”

Prison Update

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has dropped the inmate population by 336 inmates in the past week. For the past five weeks, it has dropped by 844 inmates.

Testing Capacity Expanded

Governor Mike DeWine excitedly revealed the good news about developments in two essential components  that help build the foundation for our ability to carefully begin to re-open Ohio. Those two components are testing capacity and contact tracing.

DeWine says former governors Celeste and Taft, who are heading the state’s Test Strike Force, had a major breakthrough working with Thermo Fisher that will substantially expand the testing capacity in Ohio.

After their work, DeWine says he spoke directly with Thermo Fisher CEO Marc Casper, which ended with the two parties reaching an agreement.

“This is an exciting, new partnership,” said DeWine. “We look forward to working with the Thermo Fisher team and its 1,500 employees working in Ohio.”

Additionally, as a result of collaborative efforts through the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association to fight COVID-19, ROE Dental Lab in Cleveland will manufacture up to 1 million swabs to support the state’s testing efforts.

ROE Dental Lab usually produces dental restorations, such as crowns, dentures, and dental surgical guides. DeWine says the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association helped ROE Dental Lab secure the specifications to manufacture swabs from Form Labs, a 3D printing company in Toledo.

“For Labs was the original production partner of OSU and Battelle for swabs,” explained DeWine. “However, given our significant demand, more swabs are needed.”

The need for more swabs is where ROE Detal Lab comes into the picture. DeWine says ROE Detal Lab has invested in more and will bring nearly 100 employees back to work to produce swabs around the clock, while practicing safe social distancing.

Beginning this coming Wednesday, Ohio’s capability will be at least 7,200 tests per day, and that number will go to 15,000 by May 6th; 18,800 by May 13th; and 22,000 by May 27th.

DeWine says this will help the state make the following improvements:

  • Ohio will have a greater ability test in nursing homes and see where there are problems.
  • Ohio can better identify other hot spots and go in more aggressively.
  • Ohio can focus on congregate living settings, such as homeless shelters, treatment centers, developmental disability homes.
  • Ohio will be better able to make sure food/grocery workers and employees in essential manufacturing facilities are healthy & not spreading the disease
  • Ohio can now stand up a very robust contact exposure tracing ability.

What is Contact Tracing?

“Contact exposure tracing is one of the strongest weapons that will help keep our families, our friends, and ourselves healthy – all done in a voluntary way, where we can take some control back over this disease,” said DeWine. “By stopping that spread, we are protecting others. Contact tracing is one more tool. It works along with our other efforts to test, socially distance, and wear masks.”

As part of Ohio’s offense strategy, the state started working with Partners in Health, a group based in Massachusetts, started by Dr. Paul Farmer, who is a friend of the Governor.

DeWine says he and his wife have known Dr. Farmer for many years from his work in Haiti to help dramatically cut the AIDS rate in Haiti and Africa.

“Partners in Health is a world-renowned organization that works to protect communities and will bring in needed resources to Ohio to help us increase our ability to trace contact exposure to the virus.”

More info on Ohio’s Next Phase Coming on Monday

DeWine says his administration wants to get people working again and get them back to as normal a life as possible, but at the same time, the state has to be careful.

“We don’t want to see spikes in cases and we don’t want to have to pull back,” said DeWine. “We will be laying out a hopeful schedule on Monday.”