Testing for COVID-19 is one of the biggest concerns for local health officials. They spoke out at today’s Scioto County Commissioners meetings about their biggest concerns battling Coronavirus in the county. Commissioners also looked at the path out of lockdown. (It could involve wearing masks in public for a long time) Let’s look at the six main topics our commissioners and health officials discussed:
Testing still a big problem
Both Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Martin and Scioto EMA Deputy Director Larry Mullins agree that testing for Coronavirus is an important component of coming out of lockdown. Dr. Martin said he was not satisfied with the current levels of testing.
As we told you last week, SOMC has the high-tech machine that an turn a test around in less than an hour. But they lack the crucial chemicals called ‘reagent’ needed to process the test.
Mullins said, “They just don’t have the reagent that reacts to the Coronavirus. EMA’s been trying to push that up the chain of command. If our hospital could get reagent that would be a wonderful thing.”
Reporting results can be a problem
Dr. Martin says SOMC has performed 454 tests and received 445 results. Of those results, 437 were negative and 8 positive. Only 4 of those results were counted as being in Scioto County. KDMC has performed over 1,000 tests for COVID-19 with 3.4% coming in positive.
Martin said there have been a lot of questions about the way test results are handled.
“There’s been some questions as to why we can’t report people who got a test in Scioto County. People in Scioto County get tested throughout the area. I just recently got a report from Licking County that was negative. A positive case was reported out of Mt. Carmel in Columbus Ohio. That information got to the press before I got it. There’s a lot of organizations reporting this. We get reports from Cabell and St. Mary’s. There’s no way of having one person know where everyone’s getting tested.”
What happens after a positive COVID-19 test
So what happens when someone from Scioto County tests positive? Dr. Martin went into detail about the process:
- Epidemiologist for Scioto and Lawrence Counties gets the information.
- She contacts the patient.
- Epidemiologist makes recommendations about notifying, testing and quarantining their contacts.
- That information is turned over to the health department.
- Nurses then follow up with patients and check on them daily.
Fear for Coronavirus in nursing homes
Both Dr. Martin and Deputy Director Mullins agree that nursing homes are their biggest concern.
Martin said, “My biggest concern is when it gets into a nursing home. That’s where you see a lot of deaths. I know all the nursing homes have taken lots of steps to keep that from happening.”
Mullins pointed to the shortage of PPE for nursing homes as a concern.
Commissioner Bryan Davis said that nursing homes were on his mind as well.
“My first concern is people. I echo what they say about our nursing homes and retirement centers. I worry about the health of our county, our citizens. We’ve been blessed that we’ve only had four confirmed. There are probably others out there. We gotta continue to be vigilant.”
Yesterday, Governor Mike DeWine announced that the state would now give statistics for the number of COVID -19 cases of nursing home residents and staff online.
Masks as part of the new normal
With Dr. Amy Acton’s statement yesterday that Ohioans could be wearing fabric masks for up to a year, I asked what part the county might play in making sure they were available to everyone.
Dr. Martin wasn’t sure if the county would be involved. Deputy Director Mullins said that the generous citizens of the county would ensure that everyone who needed a mask would have one:
Early on in this pandemic we got tasked with putting out a pattern for sewing masks. It was overwhelming the number of people who called that had quilting circles.
Other people who couldn’t sew was gathering up all kinds of material and elastic and tings like that. Literally hundreds and hundreds of homemade masks have been pushed out in this county.
It reminds you of people doing their part in WWII. In Asian countries this is a standard thing. People wear a mask every day. It might get to that, especially in bigger cities.
In Scioto County, if there was a need for people who didn’t have masks, the church groups and others would get together and make them.”
Mullins also reminded people that fabric masks won’t protect you from catching the virus. But they do prevent those without symptoms from spreading it.
The way out of COVID-19 lockdown
Commissioners are making plans to lead the county out of lockdown.
Bryan Davis said, “What does it look like in Scioto County as the risk begins to lessen? What does that look like for our county? We’re talking about coming up with a post-COVID committee.”
He said that it’s a delicate balance. “We have to get our economy up and running as soon as possible and not put public health at risk. It’s going to be a tightrope.”
Cathy Coleman said we are facing the unknown. “It’s hard to be prepared until we’re actually there. Not only local governments but the higher-ups are facing the same fears. We’ll do everything we can for this county.”
Mark Crabtree expressed the same economic concerns about the crisis that he has since the beginning. “My biggest concern is what the end result’s gonna be. From an economic standpoint. This has been very devastating for people who have lost their entire paycheck. We didn’t create the Coronavirus. but we gotta deal with it.”
Davis ended on a positive note: “On a bright note. The county is healthy. We are fiscally healthy. We will continue to be do. We will come out on the other side of this. We are going to emerge from this a stronger people, a stronger community. I say this because we’ve been through this before.”