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647 cases, 20 deaths in Cuyahoga County, Cuyahoga County is doing a great job flattening the curve but now’s not the time to let up

April 8, 2020
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The Cuyahoga County Board of Health holds press conference updating citizens on the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.

Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) commissioner Terry Allan opened his Wednesday, April 8 briefing by reminding everyone that we are in the middle of National Public Health Week. “Right now, more than ever, the importance of a strong, effective and well-resourced public health system has been on full display during the COVID19 pandemic response. We are here to serve,” said Allan.

Right now, more than ever, the importance of a strong, effective and well-resourced public health system has been on full display during the COVID19 pandemic response.

Allan pointed out just a few things that the Board of Health is responsible for, including offering vaccines, food safety in grocery stores and restaurants, preventing infant mortality, coordinate support for people living with HIV/AIDS and reducing tobacco use.

Allan said the CCBH staff will be wearing cloth masks – not surgical or N-95 masks – as those should be reserved for health care professionals.

Cloth masks are meant to protect us from potentially exposing others unknowingly but are not a substitute for social distancing.

He reiterated that the “cloth masks are meant to protect us from potentially exposing others unknowingly” but are not a substitute for social distancing.

Allan shared some data that Google has compiled that show that in Cuyahoga County people are observing social distancing and aren’t going out to places like they were before the pandemic. Allan said that Ohio is doing the right thing, but that people can’t let up, especially as the weather gets nicer.

Allan concluded his remarks by stating “we are encouraged by what we're seeing here in Ohio. We are encouraged by the fact that we are flattening the curve substantially but that encouragement needs to strengthen our resolve to follow the Ohio plan, because that will be our way to demonstrate to the nation that Ohio did things right.”

Dr. Heidi Gullett then started her comments by thanking people who work in corrections facilities and in social services.

“I just want to thank you all I wish I could name you all individually but please know that those of us here at the Board of Health we see you we really appreciate you we’re your partners in this and please let us know how we can help you continue to do your work,” said Gullett.

When stress is high, there are likely more cases of domestic violence

She said that the theme for this week is violence prevention. Gullett shared, especially now when stress is high, there are likely more cases of domestic violence and she shared the information for the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center at 216-391-HELP saying it is a resource that is available 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Within Cuyahoga County, not including the City of Cleveland, Gullett shared that there have been 647 cases, with an age range of one week to 101-years-old, and a date of illness onset from February 29 through to April 4. There have been 20 deaths due to COVID-19, with an age range 55 to 93 years old, who have died between March 20 and April 7.

Gullett then brought up the subject of models, saying that every model has limitations and mentioning that all of the models are taking social distancing and other mitigation measures into account. She also stressed that the lack of widespread testing also makes it difficult to predict the future.

We too would love everything to come back to normal as soon as possible but if we do that too quickly we will have a resurgence of infections and we can't afford that for anyone in our community,” said Gullett.

CCBH has done nearly 600 interviews with lab-confirmed cases to find out more about how the virus spreads.

Gullett said that CCBH has done nearly 600 interviews with lab-confirmed cases to find out more about how the virus spreads, and she said they have learned that there are clusters of people who are positive but, she said, “without enough testing we're probably not understanding the full extent of the infection in the community.”

Without testing we’re really not able to adequately understand the different pathways of transmission,” said Gullett. “There's a lot of community spread happening where there's no clear exposure to somebody else so clusters help us but there's a high degree of community spread where we don't know where someone got it.”

There's a lot of community spread happening where there's no clear exposure to somebody else.

She said that there isn’t any new information about community testing, but said “broad-based community testing is essential for us as we work through this over the next few months.”

Gullett also answered a question about if our community should expect to see a large surge or a series of smaller surges and she said that our community is a bit different because “It’s not just the residents who live here and work here but it's also the people who seek hospital care here.” She went on to say, especially since so many people utilize the hospitals in our region for intensive care, “I think that this is not going to be a big surge and then over okay I think for our community, and again this is just based on my understanding and our team's understanding, that there's probably something in between both models that applies to our community.”

It’s not just the residents who live here and work here but it's also the people who seek hospital care here.

She also said to a question about social distancing and how long it will last, “this is not where you think life will return to normal as you knew it six weeks ago or eight weeks ago quickly and I would love to be able to give you a date or a very specified timeline but I think that would be reckless and not appropriate right now given the constantly evolving nature of this and the fact that we don't have widespread testing.”

Gullett said that the CCBH is trying to grapple with the balance of keeping as many people as safe as possible while maintaining the area economy.

Responding to a question about racial disparities and their effect on COVID-19, Gullett said that, “in our community we know that there has been a historical very unfortunate legacy of racism of structural racism and of our communities of color having an experience quite different from others.”

In our community we know that there has been a historical very unfortunate legacy of racism of structural racism and of our communities of color having an experience quite different from others.

She said whenever there’s an infectious disease there are always populations that are more vulnerable, and while this virus affects everyone, people who have chronic diseases and other health issues health are at higher risk of dying. She said that CCBH plans to share more information about racial disparities at the Friday board briefing.

We've all been touched by this personally, professionally, we've seen a lot of heartbreak in the past few weeks.

Allan ended the briefing by saying that this pandemic will leave everyone in the county changed. “I don't think we should be the same. We've all been touched by this personally, professionally, we've seen a lot of heartbreak in the past few weeks,” said Allan while getting choked up and pausing for a moment before going on to say, “I've also seen some incredible breakthroughs and some incredible heroism and our staff and I don't think will be the same but we'll be better for it and we'll remember what public health is for in this community and why it matters.”

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