COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio will be able to test for coronavirus beginning late this weekend after it received a testing kit Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The kit takes about two days to prepare to take samples.
After that, the Ohio Department of Health expects it will be able to test people for COVID-19 and provide results within one to two days, director Dr. Amy Acton said during a statewide summit on the virus Thursday in Columbus.
“The turnaround will be so much quicker…It will just help us target our responses more quickly,” Acton said.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton may have also received a testing kit, Acton said. The kit, Acton said, is not something that will be available on a drug store shelf.
Instead it’s a set of materials that will allow the state to test around 750 samples from people suspected of having the virus, Acton said. That means the department on its own currently has the ability to test between 300 and 400 people for COVID-19, she said.
That limited availability will force doctors and health departments to prioritize who gets tested first based on illness criteria from the CDC, Acton said.
Until now, the state health department was forced to defer tests to the CDC, which sometimes took three to five days. The one kit Ohio previously received from the federal government was deemed faulty.
Thursday’s summit, hosted by Gov. Mike DeWine, featured speakers from public health departments around the state and sessions on how to combat the coronavirus and provide information to the public.
Dr. Jerome M. Adams, U.S. Surgeon General, also spoke at the summit via a live video chat.
Adams, who is originally from Indiana, said he has been to Columbus and driven through the Interstate 70 corridor in Ohio several times. He told DeWine to let his office know what resources Ohio needs to take on COVID-19.
“I stand ready to support your efforts on the ground in Ohio,” Adams said from Washington, D.C. “Nowhere that I’ve been to is more prepared to deal with this challenge than you all in Ohio.”
Getting testing going in each state is a top priority so that health departments can understand how much the virus has spread in each community, Adams said.
So far there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio. As of 2 p.m. Thursday, seven people had tested negative for the disease and three people were awaiting test results, according to the state.
Local health departments have monitored 255 people who recently returned to Ohio from other countries where the virus is more widespread, according to the state.
Thursday’s summit came on the heels of the decision to limit spectators at this year’s Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus. Acton issued an order prohibiting the annual festival from allowing spectators at any of its events except for a pre-ticketed finale Saturday.
Ohio leaders also spoke Thursday about how state and local health departments planned to handle the first confirmed case here.
Once the first Ohio case is identified, Acton said officials would start something called “contact tracing.” Epidemiologists and health officials would get in touch with everyone who may have encountered the person with coronavirus and ask them to monitor themselves for symptoms at home for two weeks.
So far the Ohio Department of Health has not released any location or identifying information regarding the 10 people who have been tested for the disease. But Acton said Thursday that if an Ohioan tests positive for COVID-19, officials would release more information and would notify the public where that person may have been recently in the community.
“People should not panic in any way. This is just an effort to get in front of this as much as we can,” DeWine said. “We know the coronavirus is coming to Ohio, every health expert tells us that.”