The Cuyahoga County Board of Health holds press conference updating citizens on the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.
The health commissioner for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Terry Allan, opened the Wednesday, April 1 press conference by sharing stories about people in Cuyahoga County finding ways to communicate with their family members while maintaining social distancing.
He then moved on to describe the challenges that the Cuyahoga County Board of Health continues to face. He said that medical director Dr. Heidi Gullett has built a fantastic disease surveillance and response system with existing epidemiological staff, doctors and medical students and he said that other staff are being reassigned to make sure the county has the best response for the moment. “I think we have a very strong group of public health warriors that continue to work hard on behalf of this community to try and prevent transmission,” said Allan.
“Every time you’re out of your house, every time you’re doing essential business, you have the chance for either transmitting the virus to someone else or someone else transmitting the virus to you,” said Dr. Gullett
Allan said the CCBH continues to send out isolation and quarantine orders to ensure that people understand what they need to do keep themselves and their families safe. He said the board of health is in near constant contact with first responders and hospitals in the area.
“We’re seeing this partnership between clinical medicine and public health that I think demonstrates the resilience of greater Cleveland in a way I think we can be proud of,” said Allan.
Allan said the CCBH is continuing to watch Washington and New York states and noting both their significant challenges, but also he said there is a glimmer of hope that cases might be heading downward.
“We need to continue to be vigilant we know that this can be cyclical and we’re not out of the woods yet and we need to follow the Ohio plan that’s working very well,” said Allan.
Allan commended the governor’s order stopping statewide water shutoffs due to nonpayment due to this declared emergency. “We appreciate the governor’s support so that people can have access to these utilities that are essential.” He also said guaranteed water will mean more people can also wash their hands during the emergency.
There were 409 lab-confirmed cases, with an age range from 11-months-old to 96-years-old
He reinforced the importance of the governor’s stay-at-home order, but also said it’s important to remain physically distant but socially connected. In terms of the physical distance, Allan said “we need to recognize that those disruptions and difficulties are protecting the people of Greater Cleveland, they’re protecting the people who we love most.” He also urged people to reach out to friends and family member at this time.
He specifically thanked and recognized the employees of grocery stores, pharmacies and health care professionals for their hard work during the pandemic. He also urged businesses that are still open to ask if the work is essential and the business needs to remain open and when asking that to “err on the side of caution” and close if possible.
He also noted that Columbus-based Battelle, an applied science technology development company, has started disinfecting N95 masks for health care professionals, “Even if we continue to battle and respond to this evolving pandemic we need to recognize these bright lights.”
Dr. Gullett then shared case information for Cuyahoga County, minus cases from within the City of Cleveland which has its own health department.
There were 409 lab-confirmed cases, with an age range from 11-months-old to 96-years-old and an illness onset of February 29 to March 27. Eight people in Cuyahoga County have died as a result of COVID-19 with an age range of 63 to 91 years old. The number of deaths has doubled from the figure on Monday.
Gullett shared with the families of those who have died that everyone at the Board of Health and in the county stands with them and mourns with them.
Since case counts still continue to increase, Gullett says this reinforces the idea of widespread community spread, she urged people to minimize the time they take to do essential business outside of the house.
“I just want to continue to remind people that what that means for you is every time you’re out of your house, every time you’re doing essential business, you have the chance for either transmitting the virus to someone else or someone else transmitting the virus to you,” said Gullett. “Everyone is at risk.”
Gullett answered a question about a specific cluster investigation at ManorCare Health Services in Parma. She wouldn’t release specific numbers of cases, saying it is still an ongoing public health investigation, but she did say that Manor Care has “worked tirelessly to ensure that their staff and their residents are cared for and that infection transmission does not continue to occur and that the highest level of infection control practices are implemented.” She said the Ohio Department of Health is also working with the Board of Health on the ongoing investigation.
“This is a long haul, this is a marathon not a sprint,” said Dr. Gullett.
“We’re talking about fragile folks, we’re talking about people’s parents and their grandparents and their neighbors and their friends,” said Allan “These are real people that we’re talking about – we’re talking about their lives.” He said the CCBH will always err on the side of protecting patient information.
Responding to a question about how to contact trace when there’s an outbreak at a facility like ManorCare and there are staff who work at multiple places, Gullett said there’s an initial call that could last for hours that assesses all of the employees and every place they work in order to minimize the spread of the virus. She said this is how the CCBH usually handles all infectious diseases not just COVID-19.
Gullett said that the CCBH has great relationships with police, fire and EMS officials to make sure that everyone is protected, and at this point the CCBH is saying that given the prevalence of COVID-19 infection “every single run should be suspected to be on a person with COVID-19.”
Allan echoed Gullett’s sentiment saying “we know that it’s out there, we have to make assumptions about safety on every one,” saying that it would be a false sense of security to assume otherwise. “Universal precautions is the safest way to protect your workers.”
Gullett said the board of health will release more thorough data about the cases in the county on Friday.