Lorain County Public Health Department puts incident command team into action to combat COVID-19

Posted at 4:08 PM, Apr 08, 2020

LORAIN COUNTY, Ohio — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Health Director Amy Acton are leading Ohio’s fight against coronavirus, but on the local front, county health departments are working around the clock to wage their own wars.

In Lorain County, health officials are attacking the pandemic with a specially formed team that’s monitoring and tracing cases. It’s the first time in years the Lorain County Public Health’s Incident Command Structure (ICS) has been put into action for a major medical event.

“We’ve been really working on this since the end of January,” said Health Commissioner Dave Covell.

Covell says the county’s ICS is divided based on tasks. You have one team working with local hospitals and gathering contact information for those infected with COVID-19. Another group calls that patient to find out who they may have been in close contact with. Nurses then contact those individuals and monitor them daily for symptom updates and to make sure they’re safely quarantining.

“If he put all that together you get an opportunity to actually really clampdown,” Covell said. “The trace backs are going on 24/7 basically all day, all week.”

But tracing these cases and tracking down people involved can be challenging.

“Sometimes that’s real easy and we have four or five per case. Other times we’ve had as many as 30,” Covell said. “In those cases we really have to do a good job of getting all those folks under control.”

“Behind the scenes every day local health departments here in Ohio and all around the country are doing these trace backs trying to get keep this thing at bay,” Covell said. “It’s really important to be able to use ICS so that we don’t really have a problem with staff just burning out.”

In addition to tracking COVID-19 cases, the ICS is also getting an overwhelming amount of calls and emails surrounding local businesses deemed non-essential not complying with state orders. Covell tells News 5 they continue to monitor those businesses as best they can while sending out warnings.

In the meantime, Covell is urging residents to do what’s right.

“It’s really important right now to make sure we don’t keep this spreading,” he said. “Do your part and make sure you stay home.”