The Cuyahoga County Board of Health holds press conference updating citizens on the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday and Friday mornings.
Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) health commissioner, Terry Allan, opened the April 21 briefing by addressing students who won’t return to school for the remainder of the year who are having to work remotely. He also acknowledged the challenges teachers now face by teaching completely remotely. He also acknowledged the “difficult spot” other school employees like custodians, bus drivers and those who work in food service are currently in since physical schools are closed for the rest of the year.
“Despite these many challenges we also know that this is the right thing to do, this is the right thing to do to protect our families and we want to thank everyone who has made these sacrifices who has played a role in helping students and families adapt to the change this year and also recognize that the pain that the disruption has caused in this in the situation that we find ourselves in, and know that ultimately their sacrifices are saving lives,” said Allan. “Every step that you’ve taken every sacrifice that you’ve made is related back to a life saved a case prevented and there’s great appreciation for that there’s a lot of solidarity as a community in that regard.”
Every step that you’ve taken, every sacrifice that you’ve made is related back to a life saved, a case prevented, and there’s great appreciation for that there’s a lot of solidarity as a community in that regard.
He then pivoted to the governor’s plan to gradually reopen Ohio beginning May 1. He said that CCBH is going to talk to a variety of local and state folks about protections to make sure everyone is safe. Allan said cases have “successfully plateaued” at this point but that everyone needs to remain vigilant.
“What we expect and many models talk about is that we may face in the coming months a range of clusters that may still emerge we have to be prepared to identify respond to and suppress clusters of illness going forward…the key is that those clusters are suppressed so that they don’t begin to move out into the general community,” said Allan.
Allan said it’s a delicate balance between what needs to happen on the economic front and how to keep people as safe as possible.
He then showed a cloth mask he was wearing and said that everyone at the CCBH wears a cloth mask. He said the goal is still to save cloth masks and N95 respirators for first responders and health care workers, but reiterated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance saying that there is some protection from a cloth mask coupled with social distancing.
We know now that the number of people that may actually be asymptomatic carriers, may actually have COVID and not know it could be between 40 and 50 percent of us.
“We know now that the number of people that may actually be asymptomatic carriers may actually have COVID and not know it could be between 40 and 50 percent of us new data so lots of people out there that may very well be asymptomatic carriers and that is another justification for being careful going forward,” said Allan.
He then addressed whether or not the virus will still be around in the summer by saying that no one knows at this point as this Is the first time this virus has been in our community. As a result of that he stressed the need for masks, hand washing and social distancing.
Allan then shifted to talk about how the people at the CCBH have been handling the response to the pandemic. He said that public health has learned from first responders how effective a command center can be in determining who is available to fill what roles, “to ensure that the response is done in an organized way.”
He then reiterated that, “as we move towards May 1, understand that don’t expect that we’re going to flip a switch and we’re going to begin returning to life in the way it used to be. We can’t do that yet. We have to continue to ask more from all of us,” said Allan. “We need to continue to be vigilant. We can’t take our foot off the gas.”
Dr. Heidi Gullett, the medical director of CCBH then addressed the briefing by first thanking the media, thanking parents who are trying to home school their kids while still working a full-time job, those working in shelter systems and those working in congregate settings like nursing homes and residential homes for those who are developmentally disabled.
“We thank you for that we also know this is a tremendous sacrifice that you’re making and your families are at risk as you come to work every day and are potentially exposed to the virus as well but we thank you for the life-saving work that you all do and I wanted to specifically call you out today for the service that you continue to provide for our community,” said Gullett.
Before presenting the data about numbers of COVID-19 cases in Cuyahoga County, Gullett again cautioned people that the numbers each represent a valuable member of Cuyahoga County.
In Cuyahoga County, not including the City of Cleveland, 1,028 people have contracted COVID-19 in the county, with an age range of one week old to 101 years old and the date of illness onset was from February 29 through April 18. Gullett stressed that means there is still community transmission. Gullett said 56 people have died in Cuyahoga County, excluding the City of Cleveland, the ages of those who have died range from age 53 to 97 years old.
The Ohio Department of Health will present data on residents and employees of long-term care facilities on Wednesdays.
She then shared that people form the Ohio Department of Health will present data on residents and employees of long-term care facilities on Wednesdays. She said that public health is trying to balance the need for transparency with the need to protect privacy.
Gullet then pivoted to talk about reopening the state, saying that CCBH is trying to provide data-driven guidance on wearing things like masks and other steps to take to get the community through the pandemic as safely as possible.
“We are not through this, we, life is not ready to go back to normal as we know it and so we’re working closely with our state leaders about how we can pull things back in a way that’s safe but we recognize that this has a tremendous impact on the economy,” said Gullett. “Dr.[Amy] Acton has said that this is more like a dimmer switch than an on and off switch and I think that’s probably a pretty good metaphor for understanding how things need to roll back into what we knew before we certainly can’t flip a switch that will that will certainly lead to more infections and more deaths so we’ve got to carefully use evidence and data the local and state level to understand how to move through this.”
She then said that while everyone has been impacted by COVID-19, she said those who don’t know someone personally who has contracted and/or died form the virus are rare.
I think sometimes when we’re stressed we forget about kindness.
She urged people to follow the advice of state officials and the also urged people to be kind to one another.
“I think sometimes when we’re stressed we forget about kindness,” said Gullett. “I would ask you to lead and live with kindness try to be intentional about it, even though we’re all very stressed and we have a lot on our minds kindness can only help us in this difficult time.”
Responding to a question about summer activities and if places like swimming pools and splash pads will be open in the summer Allan said guidance is being developed carefully and it will be a case by case basis what places and activities will be open and how they will be open.
“We would just ask that you have some patience as we work to develop that guidance and those are messages that we’ve been sharing with our municipalities is give us time to develop guidance where possible,” said Allan. “Since we don’t have this playbook developed, it’s being developed out of whole cloth, this is brand new, so that means we have to work through guidance think about what’s most protective and be creative and I expect there’ll be a lot of that happening in the in the coming weeks and months.”
He then said that there is guidance already about crowds and masks and said since there is some guidance developed about this some events may be able to happen with proper masking and social distancing but he again stressed that it will be a case-by-case basis.
He said it will be a process and he expects challenges, that it won’t be perfect and said that it will evolve. He also said in regards to summer sports leagues that each sport will have to be assessed in relation to how close people have to be in order to play the sport.
Responding to a question about protests of the stay-at-home order, Allan said CCBH appreciates that it is a free country and says they want people to protest safely so they aren’t spreading the virus to family members, friends or the overall community.
“From our standpoint we follow the science, we follow our leadership at the state level, which I think has been remarkable and using that guidance there may be folks because of disruptions and the challenges economically that may have concerns and they get to express those I think that’s a part of being an American,” said Allan.
He said the give and take is part of a democracy and brought up how many people called CCBH to discuss what businesses are essential, and that many employees also called the call center to question if businesses are essential and they need to be going to work. He said he thought that was a good thing and stressed CCBH will rely on science to make any recommendations.
Responding to a question about a large jump in COVID-19 deaths over the past week, Gullett said that there was some private testing that was catching up and adding to the death totals but she said that there was an increase in the number of deaths both in Cuyahoga County and in the state.
There will be more deaths if we do not heed the advice of our leaders at the local state and state level.
“There will be more deaths if we do not heed the advice of our leaders at the local state and state level to understand that transmission is here there’s a lot of infection here and we know that some people are very sick with this infection and ultimately despite the best medical care do not survive this infection,” said Gullett.