Coronavirus: Testing still in short supply as Ohio seeks to reopen

Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a daily press conference on the coronavirus at the Ohio Statehouse Friday, April 17, 2020.
Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a daily press conference on the coronavirus at the Ohio Statehouse Friday, April 17, 2020.

Components crucial for COVID-19 tests remain in short supply across the nation, which could hinder Ohio’s efforts to gradually reopen the economy.

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Gov. Mike DeWine said six major hospitals have the capacity to process more tests but are hampered by a lack of re-agent and other components. The DeWine administration is pushing the federal Food and Drug Administration to approve more methods to make the re-agent.

“We’re working very hard every day to increase testing. There is nothing more important as we go forward, as we try to figure out how we come back,” DeWine said. “… If we had an unlimited amount of re-agent, it wouldn’t solve every problem but it certainly would allow our institutions to really ramp up. They’ve got capacity,” DeWine said.

“This is a nationwide issue. It’s one of the most frustrating issues we deal with. It is being rationed … the rationing is happening federally,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. “We don’t know the answer to how soon we’ll have more of it.”

Ohio State University and ODH are collaborating to manufacture some other components of the test kits.

Rapid tests are in development but haven’t rolled out as fast as wanted, the governor said. DeWine has said how and when Ohio reopens hinges on adequate testing, protective gear and case numbers.

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ODH announced 8,855 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 249 probable cases, 2,424 hospitalizations, 401 deaths and 17 additional deaths linked to COVID19.

So far, 77,677 people in Ohio have been tested, with about 11% testing positive. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is testing about 5,000 inmates in three prisons with outbreaks. Of the 645 prison test results, 489 were positive — about 76%. DeWine noted that of 152 inmates tested in one dormitory, 60 had no symptoms, which indicates the virus has spread farther than we know.

DeWine said he’s talking with governors of Indiana and Kentucky as well as Great Lakes state governors about re-opening plans. DeWine said he’d have an announcement early next week on when Ohio’s 1.7 million K-12 students may be returning to classrooms.

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The pandemic is a dual crisis: health and economic.

Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 5.5% in March, up from 4.1% in February. The number of workers out of jobs hit 314,000 in March, up 73,000 from February.

“Last month’s jobless numbers don’t yet tell the story of COVID-19’s impact, since they were gathered so early in the month,” said Michael Shields of the liberal think tank Policy Matters Ohio. “Many more workers are already off the job following Gov. DeWine’s ‘stay-at-home’ order. They’re the folks working in jobs not classified as essential, and who can’t do their jobs from home. We want those workers at home to keep them and others safe. But if ODJFS doesn’t move quickly to push unemployment comp to them, then even those who work from home could see their jobs at risk from a drop in consumer spending.”

Andrew Kidd, an economist with the conservative think tank The Buckeye Institute, urged the DeWine administration to provide concrete criteria that will be used to guide the phased-in reopening of the Ohio economy.

“By outlining the criteria they are using, policymakers will give businesses time to reopen safely and the public will have greater confidence in the reopening process,” Kidd said in a written release.

The Ohio Restaurant Association reported that Lt. Gov. Jon Husted indicated that dine-in restaurants may not be in the first stage of Ohio’s reopening because crowds likely would remain dangerous methods of transmission for the disease.

A small group of protesters opposed to Ohio’s shut-down orders gathered Friday at the Ohio Statehouse. They said they were organized by Bikers for Trump, Proud Boys and Coach Dave Daubenmire, a football coach turned motivational, religious speaker who ran for Congress in Ohio.

Proud Boys, formed in 2016, proclaims it is a “western chauvinists” group but not connected to the racist alt-right movement, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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