“It’s important that no one is left behind,” Cuyahoga County medical director explains county strategy as COVID19 cases rise

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 Monday, March 30 press conference by discussing the expedited Food and Drug Administration approval for a Columbus-based company, Battelle, to sterilize up to 80,000 N95 masks a day on each machine they have created so those masks can be reused by health care professionals in the fight against COVID19. The move came after a day of pressure from Governor Mike DeWine, which included the governor calling a previously unscheduled press conference to plead with the federal government to reverse an earlier decision that would have only allowed Battelle to sterilize 10,000 masks a day.

“We’re in a situation where the flow of personal protective equipment and the demand just don’t match. The demand is far outweighing the availability of personal protective equipment,” said Allan.

He went on to again address the question of essential businesses, stating that the county health department phone bank has received 1,560 calls about essential businesses, 554 calls were about if a business is essential or not, 107 calls were businesses making judgments and getting information about social distancing, 312 were complaints about businesses not following orders. Allan said the county health department is following up on these calls to make sure non-essential businesses are making arrangements to not remain open. He said they have already shut down multiple different types of non-essential businesses including hair and nail salons, gyms, barbershops, massage therapy locations and vape shops. He said if anyone has a concern or complaint about a business staying open when it shouldn’t to call the county.

If anyone has a concern or complaint about a business staying open when it shouldn’t to call the county.

Allan said those at the health department worked all weekend and he reported that they are still seeing a lot of cases in the county and around Ohio and they’re working on responding and working with people to implement quarantine and isolation of people who have close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Allan then brought up information about Seattle and other places out west that the county has been watching to extrapolate what will happen in Cuyahoga County.

“We were learning from Seattle and the King County area about their response,” said Allan.

He said he thinks it’s promising that the Seattle area seems to be seeing positive results from social distancing. Allan said “as hard and disruptive as it is,” county officials hope that the extensive social distancing and other measures that have been taken in Ohio will help overall. He stressed again that health care professionals in other places in the country are having to make difficult care decisions around patient care and the hope is that similar decisions won’t have to be made in Ohio.

Allan also said he was happy to hear DeWine say that it is time to invest in public health. Allan said that while people recognize public health in situations like this pandemic, but he also brought up a list of other things public health does all the time, including things like home visits for moms with newborn babies to help keep babies safe, vaccinations, septic system inspections and school inspections.

“You’re seeing now the benefits of public health prevention efforts…to hold back the onslaught of cases through prevention so our hospitals are not overwhelmed and our EMS are not overwhelmed,” said Allan.

Dr. Heidi Gullet the medical director for the county board of health started her comments but thanking people who have been staying home saying she knows it’s not easy to do so.

She updated the total case number in the county, saying that although the numbers change very quickly, the current number of lab-confirmed cases is 388 and the age range is 14 to 93 years old. These numbers do not include the City of Cleveland.

The current number of lab-confirmed cases is 388 and the age range is 14 to 93 years old.

Gullett then explained that the board of health has a strategy of contacting the close contacts of each person who tests positive and explains quarantine and isolation procedures.

She then went on to say that the county has seen four deaths from COVID19, two men and two women between the ages of 70 and 93 years old. The victims died between March 20 and March 28.

“Every single person represented in these statistics is an invaluable part of our community that we have lost,” said Gullett.

None of the quick testing or remote testing are currently available in Cuyahoga County says Gullett but at this time the county is still testing people based on priority due to limited testing. Folks with priority to be tested include those who live in nursing homes and health care professionals.

We don’t want to get to a place where resources limit our ability to provide the very best, highest quality care that we’re known for in this region,” said Gullett. We’re doing our very best on the public health side to limit the impact on the hospital side.”

Gullett then stressed that overall health isn’t just about physical health, it’s about mental and behavioral health.

“Life is hard anyway let alone layering on something like a pandemic that has in the matter of just days and weeks completely redefined the way we live,” said Gullett.

She recommended those who have behavioral health providers maintain that care during this time, she also urged others to reach out to behavioral or mental health caregivers to get help right now.

Mental health resources:

  • Cuyahoga County’s 24-Hour Warmline, 440-886-5950
  • Text “4 Hope” to 741741
  • For those in a crisis there is a 24-hour suicide prevention, mental health crisis prevention hotline at 216-623-6888

Gullett said that it is difficult to separate Cuyahoga County’s cases from the state’s cases in order to make a separate epidemiological curve. “I can tell you that locally we are not on the other side of this curve yet,” said Gullett.

Gullett said the community needs to think about ways to protect health care workers after work, including if there are places they can live separate from their families so they don’t spread infections to those they live with.

A portion of the “significant increase we’ve seen in the past few days” has been health care providers.

Gullett said that the cases the county has seen recently has been a mix of people who were exposed both before and after the stay at home order. She said a portion of the “significant increase we’ve seen in the past few days” has been health care providers. She said that there have been people who haven’t been paying attention to the social distancing rules and says that’s why it’s so important to reach out to everyone to figure out how the virus spread and if there is any way to further mitigate spread. She also said that it’s important to talk to everyone one on one so they understand what’s happening. Gullett also said that everyone identified by the health department is given a 24-hour physician phone number so people can potentially move to a hospital if they get sicker. She said she doesn’t want anyone to die from this disease but especially not at home.

“It’s important to me that no one is left behind and we fight for every single person in this community.”

Allan stepped in to say that often it is young people congregating who may think they won’t be affected. He said they may unknowingly become part of the problem and “their choices can have implications for people that they love int eh community and they don’t realize it.”

During the briefing Allan also brought up that there are people dealing with the aftermath of flooding right now, he said that the board of health does have resources on its website on how to clean up after a flood and how to dry things out. He stressed that the board of health isn’t just a resource for coronavirus.