The Cuyahoga County Board of Health holds press conference updating citizens on the coronavirus pandemic on Friday mornings.
Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) commissioner Terry Allan discussed the Responsible Restart Ohio plan. On Friday, May 15 personal services facilities like salons, barbershops, tanning booths and day spas can open. Also, on May 15 outdoor dining at restaurants and bars can reopen and on Thursday May 21 indoor dining at restaurants and bars can also reopen. He urged people to go to coronavirus.ohio.org.
It’s absolutely essential that all of us continue to abide by the new social standards when we are in the company of other people.
“It’s absolutely essential that all of us continue to abide by the new social standards when we are in the company of other people,” said Allan. He urged people to not relax but rather double down on preventative measures like handwashing, not hugging, social distancing and wearing masks.
Dr Heidi Gullett, CCBH’s medical director, took a moment to recognize nurses as last week was national nurses’ week.
Gullett then shifted to share data about COVID-19 cases in Cuyahoga County, excepting the City of Cleveland. There are 1,540 lab confirmed cases, 457 probable cases, with a date of illness onset from February 28 to May 5. The age range of those with COVID-19 is less than one week old to 101 years old, and the cases are roughly evenly distributed by gender. Gullett reported that CCBH has identified 3,315 contacts of people who have COVID-19, and she happily reported that 608 people have recovered from COVID-19.
Six hundred and eight people have recovered from COVID-19.
Gullett reported the racial breakdown of confirmed and probable cases as .7 percent Asian, 34 percent black, 53.2 percent white, 2.9 percent other and 9.1 percent unknown. She said 2.5 percent of cases identified as Hispanic, 75.4 percent identified as non-Hispanic and 22.1 percent were unknown.
Gullett said that CCBH is working to get other information about things like symptoms and where people work.
In Cuyahoga County, 105 people ages 53 years old to 97 years old have died of COVID-19 from March 20 through May 7. Gullett again reminded everyone that each number represents a person and isn’t just a number. Of those who have died, 1 percent of victims identified as Asian, 26 percent identify as Black, 69 percent identify as white and 4 percent are unknown.
Health care workers make up 22.1 percent of the COVID-19 cases.
Health care workers make up 22.1 percent of the COVID-19 cases, and 42 percent of those with COVID-19 have pre-existing conditions. Gullett did mention that about a quarter of cases are unknown if they are health care workers and in more than 35 percent of cases it is still unknown if they have a pre-existing condition.
Gullett then discussed the epidemiological curve and said while Cuyahoga County has flattened the curve, “flattening the curve is not the end of the pandemic.” She went on to say that there are “quite a few” clusters of infection in the county and that means that we aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to this infection. Gullett then shared a frequency map that shows the number of cases in each ZIP code in the county.
She said that there is a lot of COVID-19 infection within families and that the CCBH is still finding out about gatherings of more than 10 people. She urged people to keep that in mind before this Mothers’ Day weekend.
In terms of capacity, 73 percent of adult hospital beds are in use, 53 percent of pediatric beds are in use, 69 percent of critical care adult beds are in use and 29 percent of ventilators are in use said Gullett.
Flattening the curve is not the end of the pandemic.
In terms of positive COVID-19 cases, Gullett shared that over the previous week there were 10,588 tests and overall 8.6 percent of people tested positive. She stressed that this type of data is difficult to accurately gather as there aren’t a lot of tests available for the overall community, and negative test results aren’t reported to the CCBH. She also said that these aren’t necessarily tests only on people who live in Cuyahoga County but rather they were performed at a hospital in Cuyahoga County.
Gullett then went on to further explain Ohio’s COVID-19 testing guidelines.
“You have heard us talk about equity time in and time out. Equity is the opportunity for everyone in our community to reach their full potential, and that means that when people have different opportunities we need to think very carefully about insuring those in the most vulnerable populations have what they need. So this testing strategy set forth by our state leaders, which we fully believe in here in the Greater Cleveland area, is focused on those in racial and ethnic minorities also with underlying illness issues Ohioans without symptoms are also included in priority two if they are residents or staff who are directly explode exposed in the outbreak,” said Gullett.
Equity is the opportunity for everyone in our community to reach their full potential.
Romona Brazile, CCBH’s director of prevention and wellness who has also been a nurse for more than 20 years took a moment to recognize National Nurses’ Week which was the previous week, she thanked many different groups of nurses, “thank you, you all are amazing.”
Allan then began the question and answer section of the briefing by answering how people can report concerns about businesses not following health and safety guidance and rules. Allan said that CCBH is the agency that deals with those complaints and people can call the board’s phone bank at 216-201-2000.
CCBH has been working with congregate facilities – like the juvenile detention center – regularly.
He then answered a question about COVID-19 cases at the juvenile detention center, since there have been confirmed cases at the county facility. Allan said that CCBH has been working with congregate facilities – like the juvenile detention center – regularly. He said that University Hospitals is the medical partner for the juvenile center and he said CCBH will work with UH on the scope and plan for testing at the center. He said that CCBH is going to begin on a plan to prioritize who to test with 30,000 additional tests that will be funded by Cuyahoga County. Those tests will be available to people within Cuyahoga County.
Gullett then responded to a question about if an African-American can get tested immediately or if he or she may need to meet other guidelines. Gullett said that since “we still do not have enough testing for the entire state” in order to get a test someone would also need to have symptoms.
She said that doctors do still have the ability to order individual tests for patients and she said she hoped that doctors will consider equity in ordering tests.
Responding to another question on testing, Gullett said that in addition to nation problems, locally there have been challenges to perform testing.
“We had issues with the actual collection kits being available so we quickly ran out of swabs to do the swabbing of the back of the nose and throat or in the mouth. We didn’t have enough transport media, which is the liquid that goes in the tube once the swab is collected. We didn’t have enough tubes and then once they got to the lab we didn’t necessarily have enough chemicals to run a large number of tests, so there were potential clogs at every step of the supply chain when it came to testing,” said Gullett.
She said that CCBH has been creative by doing things like working with beauticians to “piece tighter” test kits which will be available next week that use sterile tubes that wouldn’t normally be used. She said they have also received donations and praised the Ohio Department of Health for sending CCBH test kits.
“We now have a little bit more availability but certainly not the volume that we would need to test everyone in our community, yet,” said Gullett.
In terms of determining who to test next Gullett said that CCBH has been planning a strategy for that for several weeks. Gullett said the plan is “equity focused” at the center.
“We’re working with [our partners] to identify places that may not have had cases yet, where testing would be really important. Where people who are sick and haven’t had access may be able to access. Maybe they don’t have a car can’t use a drive-thru, those sorts of things,” said Gullett.
With expanded testing CCBH will able to be more proactive instead of testing areas where there are already confirmed positive tests
She said with expanded testing CCBH will able to be more proactive instead of testing areas where there are already confirmed positive tests.