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Health officials keeping a close eye on testing supplies as COVID-19 cases increase

Posted at 4:31 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 18:37:00-04

CLEVELAND — Health leaders across Northeast Ohio are keeping a watchful eye on their supply of COVID-19 testing kits as the number of cases across the state climbs. At his Thursday press conference, Gov. DeWine encouraged local health department officials to contact the state for assistance.

On Thursday morning, the Erie County Health Department announced that it had fewer than 900 testing kits at its disposal that have not been allocated. In a news release, Erie County officials said the supply of testing kits was limited due to increased demand for testing and the increasing number of positive coronavirus cases. To combat the short supply of testing kits, testing will be limited to people who are currently experiencing symptoms.

In Cuyahoga County, the board of health and MetroHealth again teamed up for a drive-thru testing center for pre-registered patients. The pre-registration requirement is designed to maintain a smooth testing process while also being wary of potential disruptions in the supply for testing kits, officials said.

Dr. David Margolius, the director of MetroHealth's division of general internal medicine, said health systems now have to be cautious about who is tested.

"I think with this wave, it's starting to feel like, 'oh my gosh, this is not just a seasonal thing. This is our new reality,'" Dr. Margolius said. "I've talked to probably 5 to 10 people [a day] who are diagnosed through the COVID hotline that we run here. Almost everybody knows where their exposure was."

Dr. Margolius said it appears many of the new positive cases were the result of people letting their guard down.

In addition to Gov. Mike DeWine continuing to plead with Ohioans to wear a mask while out in public, many cities and counties across the state have imposed or are in the process of mandating people to wear masks. The Cleveland City Council recently added penalties to Mayor Frank Jackson's order requiring masks. Additionally, in Lake County, the board of health will likely introduce a resolution mandating masks in public. Ron Graham, the county's health commissioner, told News 5 that the county could become a Level 3 'high risk' county as 30 percent of the new cases reported trace back to the week of July 4th.

“A lot of businesses are afraid we’re going to go back into a shutdown. Their personal homes, their welfare is at stake so we need to act swiftly so we can prevent that deterioration of our economic status and our health,” Graham said. “Like Governor DeWine said, we got lax after we opened up here a little bit and took some liberties in the summertime.”

Dr. Margolius said the first and second waves of COVID-19 have a very important distinction. The research that has found public masking to be effective in limiting the spread of the virus wasn't available in the early days of the pandemic back in March and April.

"We didn't know that masking worked. We were debating about the exact type of mask and making sure that healthcare workers had enough masks to go around. Now, the evidence is clear that cloth masks for everybody work," Dr. Margolius said. "We definitely have the data now to show that masks work. That's great news. But the bad news is that we didn't know it in March and April, folks are kind of clinging to that old data and resisting."