Tuesday Recap: New Testing Technology Could Help Flatten Curve in Ohio

COLUMBUS (News Talk 1480 WHBC) – Governor Mike DeWine along with other state leaders and health officials spoke this afternoon in Columbus, providing an update on COVID-19 in Ohio. Here is a layout on everything that was discussed.

Update on Cases

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reports that there are now 55 deaths from COVID-19 in the state. Ohio now has 2,199 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. 71 counties have at least one confirmed case, 23 counties have at least one fatality. 585 Ohioans have been hospitalized so far, 198 have been admitted into the intensive care unit. Stark County now has a total of 45 confirmed cases and three deaths.

Dr. Amy Acton with the ODH says over 29,000 COVID-19 tests have been given throughout the state so far. Ohio currently has a positive test rate of around 7.5%.

Not Just Hurting the Elderly

Dr. Acton spoke about how local, national and even global numbers are starting to show that the coronavirus can be a major danger to more than just those who are considered elderly.

“We are seeing, unfortuatley, a lot of hospitalizations skewing more toward the middle aged group in numbers,” said Acton.

Ohio’s median age for confirmed COVID-19 cases is just 53.

Economic Development

JobsOhio has announced that it will be providing a $2 million growth fund loan to Appalachian Growth Capital (AGC). This announcement is part of JobsOhio’s new strategic initiative to provide more economic development funds to areas of Ohio hardest hit by the economy.

AGC provides small business financing in the 32-Appalachian Counties of eastern and southern Ohio. It works with local and regional banks, as well as secondary lenders to support businesses in the region.

The JobsOhio investment is a long-term, low interest loan that will boost AGC’s ability to provide low interest funding to businesses in the Appalachian community.

Governor DeWine says this partnership comes at a critical time when Appalachian Growth Capital is working to help more small companies in Appalachian Ohio with financing during this economically difficult time.

New Testing Technology

Battelle Labs and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have jointly developed a new rapid, sensitive diagnostic COVID-19 test. Governor DeWine says the new rapid test will allow for fast turnaround time on test results, which will help flatten the curve.

Right now, the system can process approximately 200 tests per day, but when the infrastructure is fully built up over the coming days, the goal is to process more than 1,000 test swabs per day.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center will administer the new test under its existing FDA certification permits. Since March 14th, 100 researchers and clinicians have worked with Battelle researchers at night and on the weekends to stand up the lab that will support COVID-19 testing.

“We are so very, very grateful for their hard work and know that with this more rapid diagnostic process, health care providers and public health officials can better identify, treat, and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” DeWine said.  “This work will save lives.”

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Lori Criss spoke on Tuesday afternoon, providing Ohioans with tips to keep control of their mental health during these hectic times.

Doing the following small tasks each day could make a major difference in one’s mental health.

  • Wake up at the same time
  • Shower Regularly
  • Get dressed for the day in the morning
  • Have meals at normal times
  • Schedule leisure time

Criss says checking on neighbors and friends who live alone is very important right now. She encourages Ohioans to call them and talk, which will help decrease the isolation.

If you are feeling helpless or hopeless, please call the suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

If you are involved in a faith community, Criss says to stay connected to your faith leaders. Connect online or on social media. Ohio’s coronavirus website offers resources for faith communities.

Unemployment System Update

Lt. Governor Jon Husted spoke on Tuesday about complaints the state has received in regard to Ohio’s unemployment registration system.

Ohio’s unemployment system capacity was increased by 20 times due to COVID-19 related layoffs. The state has added 100 staff to call center, but Husted informed them that was still not enough.

An additional 180 new people will soon be placed in the call center to help Ohioans register for unemployment benefits. Husted says they must first be trained but will soon provide much needed additional help.

Husted added that those who have had challenges with the unemployment systems will not be forgotten. Ohioans benefits will be backdated to the date that you became eligible.

Heath Care Premiums

A grace period was enacted on March 20 for employers that can’t pay their premiums. There was also an order for out-of-network care. Insurers must provide the same rates that they would in-network. They are also required to pay for COVID-19 testing.

Limiting Time Spent in Public

Dr. Acton spoke about how Ohioans have done a great job following the social distancing guidelines.

However, she says the next step is for everyone to become more strategic about limiting the amount of times they leave the house for essential trips.

“Every trip to the store. Every time you go get medicine, you want to minimize even that,” said Acton. “You can do this. We need you to do this. It is so important that we minimize our exposure to others.”

Acton added that this isn’t time for browsing at the store. She says the work Ohioans are doing to physically distance themselves from others is life-saving.