COLUMBUS, Ohio — Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio health officials held a press conference on Saturday afternoon to unveil the state's new testing protocol for coronavirus (COVID-19).
DeWine confirmed that there are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state of Ohio. Four people are now awaiting test results and there have been ten negative tests. 255 people are under public health supervision.
“As the COVID-19 situation evolves, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), working in conjunction with hospitals, primary care providers, and other health care experts, has a plan to maximize our testing resources. We are prioritizing the patients who are the most vulnerable to be tested in the Department of Health’s State Laboratory, while ensuring those that need COVID-19 testing will be able to be tested,” said Governor DeWine.
According Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, the prioritized testing will be of those at highest risk, such as the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and first responders.
For those who are hospitalized and meet the following criteria, samples will be sent to the ODH state lab:
- Have a fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness, (e.g., cough or shortness of breath) and have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset.
- Have a fever and signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness, and a history of travel from affected geographic areas with widespread or sustained community transmission within 14 days of symptom onset.
- Have a fever with severe acute lower respiratory illness and lack of alternative diagnosis (e.g., negative respiratory viral panel, negative rapid flu).
For individuals who are not hospitalized but meet the above criteria, calling a physician or other healthcare provider is appropriate. If that healthcare provider determines a COVID-19 test is necessary, those samples are sent to private labs who now have the capability to test.
"We have a plan," said DeWine. "And we are implementing that plan."
You can keep up with the state's coronavirus updates by clicking here. The Ohio Department of Health has also set up a call center for those who have questions about coronavirus. The call center staff includes licensed nurses and infectious disease experts.
The call center will be open 7 days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and can be reached at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).
You can watch the press conference in the player below:
On Thursday, DeWine and Acton were part of a special summit in Columbus with dozens of local and state public health officials.
“We are telling all Ohioans go about your business," Gov. DeWine said during the summit. "Live your lives. Do what you need to do. Do not in any way panic.”
Gov. DeWine listed several steps his administration is taking at veterans homes, hospitals and other state-run properties.
Locally, the city of Cleveland updated its coronavirus preparation efforts on Friday, adding that no planned activities or events have been canceled at this time. Cleveland's 2020 St. Patrick's Day Parade is expected to occur as scheduled.
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus reached 14 on Friday, with one death in California and the rest in Washington state. Also on Friday, Kentucky and Indiana reported their first confirmed cases of coronavirus.
More than 100,000 people worldwide have been infected by the coronavirus, and the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus has killed more than 3,400.
Check out our special Coronavirus section here.