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, April 6 press briefing by stating how proud he is of the county’s ‘public health warriors.’
“I think it’s been incredible to watch Public Health that’s often invisible now in the past people didn’t recognize the work of prevention and I think its front and center now and I’m really proud to see the work that’s happening to reduce a risk in our community to reduce fatalities in our community,” said Allan.
He then went on to say that it’s a combination of many different things in the community – like social distancing, schools being closed, telehealth and contact tracing – that are “having a big impact here in Ohio and it’s saving lives here in Greater Cleveland.”
A combination of many different things in the community – like social distancing, schools being closed, telehealth and contact tracing – …are “having a big impact here in Ohio and it’s saving lives here in Greater Cleveland.
He said the county is going to continue to redouble its efforts, and said that the county and many other parts of the country are in for several rough weeks.
He said while it’s important to maintain social distancing, it’s also important that people reach out to friends, families and neighbors – especially those people who normally rely on a network of social services that have now been disrupted.
Allan then explained about the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to wear masks. “The idea of a mask is to prevent you from other people,” said Allan. “Not the other way around.”
Dr. Heidi Gullet, the medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, opened her comments by thanking those people who clean health care faciliites, provide meals and keep buildings in order so clinicians can treat those with COVID-19.
Please know that you are appreciated and we are very, very grateful for your work,” said Gullett.
The number of lab-confirmed cases in Cuyahoga County, not including the City of Cleveland, is 574 cases. The age range of those who have contracted the disease is one-week old to 101 years old. From March 20 through April 5, 15 people have died, between the ages of 63 and 91 years old.
“Every single time death is called to our team we pause and we just take a moment to remember those families so I hope that you too will continue to think about the human toll that this virus is taking in our community and remember that we are in this together,” said Gullett.
She then turned the briefing to the subject of masks, stressing “masks are not a substitute for social distancing. We need you to do social distancing everywhere you are.”
Every single time death is called to our team we pause and we just take a moment to remember those families.
She said that while masks do not take the place of social distancing, they can offer protection to help stop the spread – especially for those who may have the disease but aren’t showing symptoms or don’t know they have it yet.
She urged that people wear masks when they cant’ practice social distancing but plead that those masks be made of cloth – and not N95 or surgical grade masks. She said she too wears cloth masks while out in public at places like the grocery store.
I’m not going to take a mask that I know my colleagues need in the front clinical care lines,” said Gullett.
“I’m not going to take a mask that I know my colleagues need in the front clinical care lines,” said Gullett. She also urged that people who may have masks at home to donate them to a local emergency operations center so they can be distributed to hospitals and health care providers.
“Even a donation of one or two masks is important and we would gladly accept it and distribute it where it is needed most,” said Gullett.
Gullett also highlighted the Governor Mike DeWine’s action on Saturday to increase access for telehealth services from counselors social workers and therapists. “Behavioral health is a critically important part of maintaining health in a pandemic and in regular life outside of a pandemic.”
It’s important that people feel that they can take control of the anxiety or stress that they’re feeling and that people need to know they aren’t helpless.
She said it’s important that people feel that they can take control of the anxiety or stress that they’re feeling and that people need to know they aren’t helpless. She then mentioned some mental health resources people can use in these tough times.
- Cuyahoga County 24-hour Warmline – 440-886-5950
- Text 4Hope to 41741 – the crisis text line
- 24-hour Suicide Prevention Hotline 216-623-6888
When asked how babies just a week old are contracting COVID-19, Gullett said there is a study to better understand how that transmission happens, but she said they know that it can happen within two to 14 days of exposure, and if families are isolating with a child, transmissions can happen.
In terms of hopeful signs, Gullett referenced a map that showed that those in Cuyahoga County are staying home and said there is objective data to back up that people aren’t driving as much or in the workplace as much.
She said there isn’t any decrease in people using parks, which is okay but she said it’s important to maintain social distancing.
Gullett then referenced issues that are happening nationally including problems with the supply chains and getting things like ventilators.
“On the clinical side I think we still have a long way to go nationally but locally we’re really trying to do our very best,” said Gullett.
Allan then highlighted Ohio’s leadership on implementing things like social distancing and a stay-at-home order and said that is another positive the Board of Health is looking at.
“The story will be told by those that stepped up to use tried-and-true public health measures to prevent transmission and that is the story for Ohio and that is a glimmer that I think drives all of us colleagues on statewide calls here in Ohio that sort of leadership in tough times is something that will – that has – defined Ohio and I think it will define our response at the end of the day and so that’s what gives me hope and encouragement,” said Allan.
When asked about racial and demographic breakdowns of those who have COVID-19 Gullett said the CCBH is trying to release as much information as possible but still wants to protect the privacy of those who have been diagnosed.
“That is not something that we’re ignoring at all it’s actually been something from the very beginning,” said Gullett. ”Those of you who follow our work and know our work prior to the pandemic know how important equity is for us and as a team here at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health equity drives everything we do and that’s the opportunity for everyone to have their full potential regardless of race or ethnicity language sexual orientation or other demographic and so for us this is no different.”
She went on to say that the lack of available tests has also made it difficult to track demographic data about those who have contracted the disease, because there are populations in the community that haven’t been able to access testing.
So while I can give you data about lab confirmed cases it doesn’t necessarily represent everyone in our community who hasn’t been able to access testing even if they’re symptomatic,” said Gullett.
The lack of testing is an ongoing problem Gullett said is a top priority for her.
“I won’t stop until we get more testing. I don’t know where it’s going to come from or who’s going to pay for it, but I’m gonna continue to push because that’s crippling us and that’s what’s gonna get us to where we need to be to get this curve flattened, and get our community and our economy going again,” said Gullet.
Answering a question in reference to stark messaging about the next week or two coming from the national level, Gullett said that on the local level, Northeast Ohio does have a commitment to public health and a lot of people – including volunteers – who are helping with the public health response to the pandemic.
“I know that this and next week and the subsequent weeks are going to be hard but I don’t necessarily know that this is that week for us here because we have really been working hard over the last month to make sure that we stay as far ahead as we can,” said Gullett.
She also mentioned a unique issue to the Greater Cleveland area that the CCBH is monitoring.
“As we get more sicker people in other parts of Northeast Ohio they will be coming here for care when they need ICU and they’re in more intense levels of care that maybe their hospitals don’t have as much bed capacity et cetera, so that’s another variable that we are very closely watching, but not one that I have any predictive model to share with you around it’s gonna be this week or next,” said Gullett. “We know that the cases are growing in Ohio and so the coming weeks are gonna be challenging for all of us in that regard.”
Remind your neighbors and your friends that what we’re doing right now is working. The things we continue to do are working.
Allan ended the briefing by saying, “remind your neighbors and your friends that what we’re doing right now is working. The things we continue to do are working.”