Ohio falls short of testing hopes

By Randy Ludlow - The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio does not anticipate a dramatic increase in coronavirus testing this month even as the state is on alert for spikes in infections after largely reopening its economy amid the ongoing pandemic.

In a federal filing, the state estimated it will administer 317,670 diagnostic tests for COVID-19 in June, an average of 10,589 a day — a total far below the figure sought and promoted by Gov. Mike DeWine.

The projected 10,859 daily tests would represent an increase of nearly 1,400 (15%) over the average of nearly 9,500 daily tests administered during the last week of May in Ohio.

DeWine, who repeated Tuesday that testing has not reached the desired level and “remains a work in progress,” had talked of Ohio expanding its virus testing to 18,000 to 22,000 a day by late May.

A DeWine spokesman said Wednesday the state expects to near those testing numbers — but not until July, a month later than originally projected by the governor as the state works to obtain testing supplies.

As touted by DeWine and State Health Director Dr. Amy Action, more testing, along with contact tracing to identify potentially exposed people, is vital in detecting spikes to help check the spread of the deadly virus.

The figures come from a report the state health department filed late last week with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explaining its testing plans as required in exchange for federal virus testing funds.

The State Controlling Board on Monday released $238 million in federal money to the Ohio Department of Health to support its testing program.

The document lists the daily virus testing capacity of public and private labs in Ohio at about 10,600, a number slightly below the state’s projection of conducting an average of 10,859 tests a day in June.

Dan Tierney, DeWine’s press secretary, said Ohio will expand its testing throughout June, with later daily totals to exceed the projected daily average for the entire month reported to federal authorities.

“It is possible that we will exceed the reported June monthly number if all things fall into place and enough samples are sent to the labs for testing,” Tierney said.

State health officials anticipate conducting about 540,000 tests in July, an average of slightly more than 17,400 a day, he said. Still, that figure falls below what Acton has said she believes is necessary.

DeWine did not conduct a virus briefing Wednesday, but expects to announce reopening requirements for venues such as museums and zoos Thursday.

By Randy Ludlow

The Columbus Dispatch

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