As Ohio looks to increase its testing amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Governor Mike DeWine has announced the formation of a Testing Strike Team. The team will be led by a pair of former Ohio Governors in Richard Celeste, who governed the state from 1983-1991 and Bob Taft (1999-2007).
According to DeWine, the team will be tasked with working with Ohio leaders from business, academia, and public health to help source critical testing items. The widespread availability of testing is considered one of the most critical components as Ohio begins the process of reopening its economy.
Additionally on Tuesday, DeWine announced that the Food and Drug Administration has approved a new version of a testing reagent produced by Thermo Fisher. DeWine said the approval will greatly expand Ohio's ability to increase its testing capacity and that the state is working with other companies to make additional reagent kits available in order to increase testing.
DeWine said that he anticipates a big spike in the number of available tests by mid-May.
As of Tuesday, Ohio has had 13,725 positive coronavirus cases, including 2,779 hospitalizations, 838 ICU admissions and 557 deaths. Dating back to the discovery of Ohio's first positive coronavirus case on March 9, DeWine has put a number of measures in place to encourage physical distancing, including a stay-at-home order since March 23.
Last week, DeWine announced that the state is preparing to begin the process of reopening its economy when the current stay-at-home order expires on May 1.
Appearing on MSNBC Tuesday night, DeWine shared more insight on his plan to reopen the economy, which he has yet to unveil in full detail.
"We're going to look at companies to start off, frankly, that are similar to the ones that we deemed essential," he said. "Those businesses have been doing a bang up job. They're taking people's temperatures when they come in. They've got protective gear on. They've got masks on," said DeWine.
The governor added that Ohio's plan will be similar to that of Massachusetts, which has announced plans to ramp up coronavirus testing and massive contact tracing. DeWine said that Ohio is working with Partners in Health, a Boston-based non-profit that specializes in contact tracing.
Contact tracing is a technique that works to identify infected people and isolate them. Disease detectives then track down everyone the infected person has been in contact with, to get those people tested and into quarantine. It's a labor-intensive method that is seen as key to snuffing out a pandemic.
DeWine said his plan includes some of the federal guidelines for reopening the economy, which suggests that states reopen after a downward trend of Covid-like cases for 14 days. However, he admits that Ohio is not there yet.
"We have flattened the curve, but it looks to be like a plateau. So we're not going down. That's what we want, but we've reached that plateau," he said.