Ohio aims to expand testing availability statewide ahead of reopening

Posted at 9:52 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 13:33:37-04

AKRON, OH — Testing concerns continue to grow as state officials question availability and while a new testing strike force aims to help find ways to ramp up testing in order to identify and isolate those with the virus, doctors say lack of testing could disrupt the state’s reopening.

It’s no secret testing in Ohio and many other states has been slow. On Tuesday, Governor Mike DeWine explained the lack of reagents is part of the problem.

“That’s caused us in Ohio an across the country to test few samples than we would’ve been able to do if we had unlimited amount of reagent,” he said.

Those reagents are required in order to provide accurate test results by helping determine whether a sample contains the virus. Dewine announced state partnerships with several companies to help produce more He says the goal is to see a daily increase in testing across the state by mid-May.

“Thermo Fisher is hoping that they can give enough reagent so that by mid May we will see a significant increase in the number of test that we can conduct in Ohio per day.”

Despite the slowdown, Dr. Shanu Agarwal an infectious disease specialist and Chairwoman of Infectious Control at Summa Health Hospital, says they’ve been able to ramp up hospital testing. She says the hospital has nearly doubled its capacity with close to 100 tests being completed daily. The results are returned in less than four hours.

“We’ve had different platforms of testing that we had applied for and we were able to get those,” she said. “We validate the testing in our lab and then we’re able to run the samples.”

Still, Agarwal says they’re forced to prioritize tests due to limited availability.

“Definitely have to prioritize patients who are admitted into the hospital and have more severe disease versus someone out in the community who may have been exposed but not showing any symptoms,” she said. “Our goal is to really make it widely available, but it really depends on our demand and the impatient side.”

Agarwal says limited testing is due to efforts to help preserve PPE and to also help gear up for Ohio’s reopening with testing being an essential part of keeping employees and customers safe.

“As long as we can get people to help we can at least contact and trace individuals, make sure they stay home and to further encourage social distancing.”