As a response to a large number of deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the formation of the Congregate Care Unify Response teams, which will begin testing for the virus in nursing homes.
Nursing homes hold society’s most vulnerable members due to age and medical conditions, DeWine said during the state’s coronavirus response press briefing May 26. Ohio has 960 nursing homes, 200 of which have a COVID-19 history.
The Congregate Care Unify Response will have up to 14 different teams made up of 10 members that will start testing in nursing homes.
All nursing home staff will be tested and testing of residents will be based on assessments.
“The staff are the individuals coming into the nursing home,” DeWine said. “It can’t get into the nursing home unless someone brings it in … so testing staff makes sense from that point of view.”
An advance team made up of staff from the state’s Medicaid and health departments will go into nursing homes to identify if parts or the whole facility should be tested. Afterward, the teams of medically trained Ohio National Guard members will perform the tests.
The response teams will start with nursing homes that have had or are currently experiencing outbreaks of the virus.
DeWine said he has given the order to “deploy the resources we have as quickly as we have to save the most lives as we can.”
Results will be reported weekly, DeWine said, and the process will be ongoing and is expected to go on “for a number of weeks.”
All residents and staff member of state’s developmental centers will also be tested.
With testing capacity increasing, this is the first time during the pandemic the state has been “in a position” to go into hotspots and focus testing on those areas, DeWine said.
“To save the most lives we clearly have to go where the most people are dying, and they’re dying in our nursing homes, they’re dying in our other congregate care facilities,” he said.
While the state has had a goal of reaching 22,000 tests a day, it has averaged between 8,000 to 9,000 tests a day for the past three weeks.
Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said the number for the goal comes from the capacity the machines can test based on one type of reagent that can be tested in that machine.
The reagent produced by Thermo Fisher Scientific for that machine was secured by the state in April, which was able to increase the capcity of testing. However, Acton said that was just one part of the testing system.
“It’s a complicated whole system, so you can’t solve for just that one piece,” she said. “The 22,000 was just the capacity of the one machine but the actual system of the components has many missing pieces and many parts that need streamline.”
Among some of those “missing pieces” include the amount of testing swabs the state has, the labor force to run tests in the labs, people to go out to get the testing and other reagents used in the testing process.
“We are building a systems as we are doing testing and trying to save lives,” DeWine said.
Ohio has 33,006 total cases of COVID-19 and 2,002 deaths, the Ohio Department of Health reported May 26.
The total number of individuals who have been tested in Ohio is 337,221.
The ODH reports 5,579 individuals have been hospitalized, and 1,450 have been admitted to the ICU due to the coronavirus.
The individuals who have tested positive range in age from less than 1 year old to 109 years old, with a median age of 49.
Cuyahoga County accounts for 4,060 of the cases, 999 hospitalizations and 221 deaths.
If you have questions regarding COVID-19, call 833-4ASKODH (833-427-5634) or visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.