COLUMBUS, Ohio — As testing in Ohio increases, public health officials are better able to understand how COVID-19 works, said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. For example, over the past week, intensive testing at prisons across Ohio has revealed a high number of individuals who tested positive but showed no symptoms.
At one facility, nearly 70% of the individuals tested were asymptomatic carriers, Acton said. This finding coincides with a flood of new research that has suggested far more people have had the virus without any symptoms.
Acton said the state hs also learned more about factors that cause severe complications from COVID-19 in younger people who contract the virus. Testing has shown indicators that obesity can increase death rates in younger patients. The virus was thought to be strictly a lung disease but has shown to impact other areas of the body as well, according to Acton.
“Don’t be surprised as we learn day by day some things new. That hasn’t gone away,” Acton said. “This virus remains predictably unpredictable.”
Testing in Ohio is still limited, so the state is focusing the testing on high-risk groups and areas, including prisons that place individuals in close quarters, and nursing homes, which house one of the most vulnerable populations.
Since the testing is focused right now on those high-risk groups, Acton said Ohioans should expect to see a continued uptick in positive case numbers.
Acton also warned Ohioans that increases in case numbers are likely to be reported as the state gradually opens certain businesses back up. The increases won’t be peaks, as shown in the earlier models, but rather “bumps.”
“As we alter the number of people who are moving about in the population we’ll see bumps. The most important thing is how we respond to those,” Acton said. “We’re calling those more and more ‘hot spots,’ ‘flare-ups,’ ‘fires,’ and what my job and my team is working so hard on is ‘What is our ability to put out those fires immediately when they happen?’”
The key to that, Acton said, is widespread testing and contact tracing to keep the cases isolated and prevent further spread, which the state said its working tirelessly to achieve.
As Acton works with Gov. Mike DeWine and the state's appointed board of economic advisers to slowly and gradually re-open certain businesses, she said they are using the information they have gotten from testing to find a way to get back to life as we knew it.
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The CDC and the Ohio Department of Health are now recommending the use of cloth face coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.
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