Mass testing in three Ohio prisons has turned up 3,853 coronavirus cases among inmates and 379 prison workers, showing how fast the virus can spread in congregate settings. Now the state’s long-term care providers are hoping for the same thing in over 1,000 nursing homes, assisted living communities and other facilities.
The state tested nearly 5,400 inmates at the Marion and Pickaway Correctional Institutions and the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus, because of concerns of how fast COVID-19 was spreading. All deaths in the Ohio prison system so far have been at those three facilities, while sixteen inmates and one prison worker have died.
Pete Van Runkle with the Ohio Health Care Association says operators of long-term-care facilities understand why the mass testing was done at those institutions. But they're bothered by the state's repeated instistences that tests are limited.
“It’s clearly appropriate and necessary. Their concern just is, we’ve now used a couple thousand tests that supposedly were so scarce," Van Runkle said. "And we’ve got a bunch of folks who are in these congregate settings for the elderly and disabled and they’re not getting it.”
Van Runkle says his members support mass testing at all long-term care facilities. He says that residents and staff at nursing homes have died, although the Department of Health has yet to report how many.
Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton said with limited tests available, testing will be prioritized by tiers. People with symptoms, who are hospitalized or are health care workers, are considered first priority.
Acton also said when a few positives are found at such facilities, it can be assumed the virus is has spread throughout, without testing everyone.
"We see a few cases in a nursing home, we test as many as we can. We test some staff and then we say, 'It's there' and treat it as such, you almost have to treat it as if everyone has it," said Acton on April 21.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced a new agreement that will dramatically increase Ohio's capacity for coronavirus testing. He says testing and tracing will play a major role as Ohio’s businesses start opening in the next phase of fighting COVID-19.
Ohio currently tests an average of about 3,700 people a day. That number is set to grow to 22,000 tests a day in the next four weeks because of new agreements made with Thermo Fisher to produce more reagent and ROE Dental Labs to manufacture more swabs.