The state is launching an effort to test for coronavirus in nursing homes and other residential facilities, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday as COVID-19 cases again crept upward.
DeWine said that he is launching 14 response teams of 10 people this week that will focus on testing congregate living facilities. The Ohio National Guard will swab residents at these facilities, the governor said.
“Nursing homes contain some of the most vulnerable members of our society … so I have asked my team and challenged them to work with the Ohio National guard, local health departments and local hospitals to go after this problem,” DeWine said
The goal, DeWine said, is to test all staff at long-term care facilities. Residents will be tested on an as-needed basis, he said. The state will test all residents and staff members of the state’s eight developmental centers using the same response teams.
The state will continue to provide updates weekly on testing in long-term care facilities, DeWine said.
The response teams will start by addressing the nursing homes that have already had COVID-19 cases. Around 200 of the state’s 960 nursing homes have already reported cases, DeWine said.
Nursing homes have been hit particularly hard in Ohio, with 878 of the state’s 2,002 confirmed and probable deaths occurring in long-term care facilities.
The high mortality in those facilities is the result of how contagious the virus is and not necessarily a reflection of something facilities are doing wrong, said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health.
“What this is going to be is a show of goodwill and support to our nursing homes,” Acton said of the new testing strategy for congregate living facilities.
DeWine’s decision to shift the Ohio National Guard’s focus to testing comes as the White House is reportedly considering recalling its members.
The Trump administration may end deployments of the National Guard on June 24, according to several news reports earlier this month. That would mean many guard members would find themselves one day short of being eligible for early retirement and full education benefits.
Cases and deaths inched up slightly across Ohio on Tuesday, something Acton said may be the result of a lack of testing and reporting over the holiday weekend.
The total number of confirmed and probable cases increased by 529 to 33,006 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Deaths also ticked up by 15 since Memorial Day, bringing the number of confirmed and probable deaths across the state to 2,002.
An additional 68 Ohioans were hospitalized for COVID-19 as the statewide total coronavirus-related hospitalizations climbed to 5,579, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
“Not all testing centers are operating every day especially during a holiday weekend,” Acton said. “I suspect will see a pretty high uptick with the start of the week.”
Overall the state’s case and death count is still in something of a plateau, Acton said.
With 5,414 COVID-19 cases, Franklin County remains the epicenter of Ohio’s epidemic. Franklin County has also reported 239 deaths, more than any other county, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
At 4,060, Cuyahoga County has reported the second most cases in Ohio. Lucas County has reported the second highest number of deaths, with 229 as of Tuesday, according to the state.
The state is still behind its goal of testing, DeWine said Tuesday. The state is testing about 8,000 to 10,000 people per day which is well short of the 22,000 tests per day goal the governor had previously set for late May.
DeWine said he thinks the numbers will improve as the National Guard begins testing in long-term care facilities, but said that the state is nowhere near where he wants it to be in terms of testing.
“I think you’re going to see numbers get higher… But, we are certainly not satisfied with where we are,” he said.