Coronavirus: DeWine launches expanded nursing home testing

Coronavirus: DeWine launches expanded nursing home testing
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has taken aggressive action, sometimes days before other governors, on advice from Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton.

COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine launched an expanded statewide testing program to detect the extent of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes.

He has called upon the Ohio National Guard to bring in units with medical training to assist in the new testing. He’s calling them “congregant care unified response teams.”

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“We are going to start with the nursing homes that have had an experience with COVID-19, either currently ongoing or in the past several months,” the governor said in comments during his news briefing on the state’s continuing response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said since the health emergency hit in mid-March, 63 percent of the deaths in Ohio from the virus have occurred in nursing homes. The latest figures from the state Department of Health, released Tuesday, show 33,006 cases confirmed or suspected in the state and 2,002 deaths confirmed or suspected from COVID-19.

The first step in the new program will be to test every nursing home staff member in the state. After that, testing of residents will follow if the medical team on site suspects people there have been exposed to the virus.

DeWine said he hopes to have the tests begin to be administered this week. Still, he cautioned it may take several weeks to have every facility covered.

“To give you the big picture,” he said, “there are 960 nursing homes in the state of Ohio. Approximately 200 of these have a COVID-19 history.”

The overall goal of the new testing program is to reduce the spread of the virus and save lives, he said.