Updated: 4:10 p.m., Friday, April 24, 2020
Ohio will “substantially” increase its capacity for coronavirus testing as the state’s manufacturers step up the production of test kit components, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.
More testing, combined with expanded efforts to trace the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state, will help health workers “isolate” and “kill” the virus, the governor said.
“Frankly, what I like about this, and why I’m so excited is it’s going to enable us to really go on the offensive as we attack the virus,” DeWine said.
The total number of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases reached 15,169 Friday, with 690 deaths and 3,053 total hospitalizations to date. The number of Ohioans admitted to intensive care units hit 920.
Ohio plans to bring on about 1,750 people to trace the contacts of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, DeWine said. It will take such a large workforce to trace the contacts of more than 15,000 COVID-19 cases, Ohio Medical Director Dr. Mark Hurst said at Friday’s news conference.
The expanded testing and contact tracing will help protect Ohioans in group living situations, such as nursing homes, homeless shelters, treatment centers and developmental disability homes, the governor said.
“Contact exposure tracing is one of the strongest weapons we can employ to help our families our friends and ourselves stay healthy,” DeWine said. “This is going to all be done in a voluntary way, where we can take some control over this disease.”
ROE Dental Laboratory in Independence has invested in new 3D printers and will manufacture up to 1 million testing swabs, DeWine said. Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientific, which has 1,500 employees in Ohio, will produce the reagent chemicals necessary to analyze coronavirus samples.
Currently, Ohio can test about 3,728 people a day, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said.
With the new steps outlined Friday, the state will be able to run 7,200 COVID-19 tests per day by next week, expanding that capacity to 18,000 daily tests by May 7, DeWine said.
“This capacity will give us a much better opportunity to deal with hotspots wherever they occur,” he said.
Ohio’s prison system has emerged as one such hotspot. COVID-19 has infected 3,816 inmates as of Thursday. Most cases are clustered in Marion Correctional Institution.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reduced the inmate population by 366 last week, cutting the number of people in the prisons by a total of 844 over the last five weeks, DeWine said.
On Monday, the DeWine administration plans to announce its first steps toward reopening businesses shuttered in the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The new measures will include new provisions to protect workers from the virus, the governor said Friday, while also getting people back to work.
Another 109,369 Ohioans filed for unemployment last week, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Nearly 1 million people have filed claims in the last five weeks.
“We obviously want to get people working again, we want to get people back to as normal a life as possible,” DeWine said. “At the same time, we have to be careful. And we don’t want to see spikes come up in the future, nor do we want to see us pull back things.”