Coronavirus: DeWine orders hospitals to use faster tests, calls on businesses to make medical supplies

The DeWine administration issued a public health order directing hospitals to send specimens to four major hospitals or the state lab for coronavirus testing, saying results are lagging too long at private labs.

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Cleveland-based Metro Health, University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic and the Ohio Department of Health have the capacity for rapid turnaround on test results.

Gov. Mike DeWine added that rapid tests coming onto the market will be deployed across Ohio as soon as they are available, perhaps next week.

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Columbus-based Battelle Memorial Institute and OSU jointly developed a test to diagnose COVID-19 in as few as five hours. Abbott Laboratories, which has operations in Ohio, announced its new, portable ID NOW COVID-19 test can deliver positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.

Widespread testing to confirm suspected cases and later blood testing to determine who had the disease are considered key to containing the spread and returning to normal.

“We could use all the testing we can get, basically,” DeWine said. “The more tests you have, the better information you can get.”

The Ohio Department of Health reported 2,547 confirmed coronavirus cases. Of those, 679 are hospitalized, including 222 in intensive care, and 65 people have died.

Also on Wednesday, DeWine signed an order asking lenders to give commercial property owners more time to make loan payments and he announced plans to work with Ohio manufacturers to create the critically needed personal protective equipment.

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Personal protective equipment

Ohio received its allocation of personal protective equipment from the strategic national stockpile but it won’t be enough, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Ohio’s allocation includes 107,670 gowns, 552 coveralls, 493,575 pairs of gloves, 131,808 face shields, 672,100 surgical masks and 271,450 N95 masks.

“The supplies we received, and the state’s reserve, will not meet the immediate or future needs of Ohio’s health care providers and first responders,” ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton said.

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign noted the distribution in an email sent out Tuesday night, saying, “President Trump is mobilizing the full force of the federal government to get health care workers the supplies they need to combat the coronavirus.”

The DeWine administration put out a call to Ohio businesses to make the gear in-state.

DeWine launched RepurposingProject.com with the Ohio Manufacturers Association, Ohio Hospital Association, JobsOhio and other organizations.

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“If you are a manufacturer, we need your help. We need your help right now,” DeWine said.

Caring for a patient in intensive care for 24 hours requires 36 pairs of gloves, 14 gowns, three pairs of goggles and 13 N95 masks.

Acton said a national conversation needs to happen about the stockpile reserves, manufacturing capacity and the ability to scale up production of the equipment and tests.

“This is a nightmare for all concerned. This isn’t a blame thing but we have to lean into some solutions that are more wide and scalable,” she said.

Acton added that while New York is a hot spot now, multiple hot spots will erupt simultaneously in two weeks.

“There needs to be a combination strategy on prioritizing hot spots as they exist. But we know with the delay in testing, we can’t all prove we are about to hot spots. We know there are going to happen simultaneously across 50 states and territories as well,” Acton said.

Disaster declaration

The president approved DeWine’s request for a major disaster declaration for the state after Ohio’s entire Congressional delegation sent a letter requesting swift action.

“We are very happy about that,” DeWine said. It’ll make Ohio eligible for federal emergency funds.

Hospital plans

Ohio’s 236 hospitals are working to dramatically increase bed capacity across Ohio in advance of the surge of COVID-19 cases in late April.

The Ohio National Guard is meeting with officials at convention centers in Columbus and Cincinnati to consider converting those buildings into temporary hospitals. Hotels, dormitories, closed hospitals and other facilities are also being considered, DeWine said.

Capacity and care will be coordinated across three zones — Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton/Cincinnati — and eight smaller regions.

Small businesses

Ohio businesses need flexibility to rework loan obligations during the crisis so DeWine issued an order that requests lenders grant them a 90-day forbearance on loan payments. Commercial properties, such as strip malls, apartment complexes or movie theaters, are expecting their tenants will have difficulty paying monthly rent. In turn, the property owners will have trouble covering their debt payments.

Hitting pause on loan repayments will help avoid foreclosures and empty storefronts, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said.

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New order coming?

An order could be coming Thursday that will address institutions that have not followed state orders during the coronavirus.

DeWine fielded two questions specifically about churches and businesses that are continuing to operate or are not following social distancing.

While what people do in their private lives is typically their own business, when it endangers others government has to take action, DeWine said. The governor said an order will come tomorrow, but did not provide further details.

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