Scioto County EMA Deputy Director Larry Mullins didn’t hold back when describing the state of COVID-19 test reporting, “It’s kind of like a hot mess.”
Mullins says the issue is that there’s no longer centralized reporting for test results. The centralized command center that made sure local health departments got real-time reports on the number of cases in their county shut down on June 1st. ” We no longer have that constant flow of information 24/7.” He also said that local health departments have a lot more to handle than just Coronavirus.
As more people get involved in the testing process, it gets more complicated: “The first thing that happens is that the hospitals were good at reporting. Other entities not so fast and not required to report negatives to us.”
He said that the Scioto County Health Department and Portsmouth City Health Department send in their numbers separately. With the expansion of antibody testing, the decision was made just to count the cases of those who currently tested positive for the virus and leave out those who have already had it and recovered.
Sometimes We Don’t Have A Real Good Idea What’s Going On
The recent positive COVID-19 test for an employee at SOCF is a prime example of the confusion.
“There was confusion at first in tracking that down. At first the Health Department thought it was an EMS worker. Then we found out it was an SOFC employee on Facebook. They spent 12 hours trying to track down someone who didn’t exist.”
Mullins said that since the prison is a state facility, the state is in charge of the contact tracing.
“Primary responsibility is to the state. That’s why we have three hospitalizations but can only count for one. the state will bring in Wexner Medical Center to test. It’s kind of like Pluto. They’re in our solar system but they are way out there rotating. Sometimes we don’t have a real good idea of what’s going on.”
UPDATE: Mullins contacted me to say that he’d checked with state about the matter and wanted to revise the answer. “The county is responsible for the contact tracing for any employee that tests positive while the state is responsible for the contact tracing of the inmates.”
Mullins said antibody testing has revealed some interesting facts. “This thing has been around a lot longer than we thought going back to early January or late December.”
The Deputy Director said “The main thing is that we’ve only had one local hospitalization through the whole pandemic. If we had thousands of people in the hospital because of this, we’d have a problem. We made it through the height of the outbreak in really good shape. We’re trying to keep track and make sure we’re not a hot spot.”
Mullins said the county has gone from a shortage of PPE to a surplus. “We’re still receiving PPE shipments. It’s not a bad thing. We don’t know what’s gonna happen in the fall. We’re in a lot better place than we were when this all started. Now it’s like a fire hose. It’s sort of hard to turn it off.”