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New COVID-19 cases slow down over last month in Ohio

Jake Zuckerman, Ohio Capital Journal

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Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton addresses reporters. Photo by Jake Zuckerman

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Ohio has trickled downward since early May, an analysis of state data shows.

The 10-day average of new cases peaked on May 10 (excluding a surge largely attributable to mass testing in state prisons) at roughly 640. Today that figure is down to an average of 456 new cases per day.

However, the Ohio Department of Health continues to report scores of deaths, hospitalizations and ICU admissions from COVID-19 every day, and public health officials urge citizens not to let their guards down against the virus.

All told, about 2,400 Ohioans have died of COVID-19 since March 20. The median age of the deceased is 81. More than 70% of the deaths trace back to long term care facilities.

More than 34,000 people have contracted the disease. About 6,500 have been hospitalized.

Some other COVID-19 trends to watch in Ohio:

No sign of a testing surge

Despite rosy talk from the Statehouse, there’s no evidence to suggest any inbound surge in COVID-19 testing.

Over the last two weeks, an average of roughly 10,200 Ohioans have been tested for COVID-19 per day. The daily average has only oozed upward, despite claims from Gov. Mike DeWine of the state’s “testing capacity” able to process more than 20,000 tests per day.

The state’s own strategic testing plan doesn’t project any appreciable growth in testing rates through June. A DeWine spokesman has said officials expect to see actual testing rates rise to capacity levels in July.

In a state-by-state comparison of testing rates by JHU, Ohio ranks at 42nd.

Officials emphasize a combination of contact tracing and testing are the only surefire ways to fully resume an economy while controlling the epidemic.

More negative tests

What does a pandemic under control look like?

One indicator, as teased out by the World Health Organization, is a population’s test positivity rate. If the rate is high, you’re probably only testing the sickest people and missing milder cases.

WHO recommended to countries last month that before opening, their test positivity rate should remain at 5% or lower for at least two weeks.

Analysis from Johns Hopkins University indicates Ohio broke the 5% threshold last week and has stayed below it since then. Ohio is one of 29 states that meet WHO’s threshold.

Veterans Home outbreak worsens

Fifteen residents of the state-run veterans’ home in Sandusky have died following probable diagnoses of COVID-19, according to data released Saturday.

Another 22 are in what the facility calls its “enhanced care unit,” a block of private rooms separated from normal traffic with dedicated nursing staff.

A total of 65 residents and staff contracted the disease. Of the 50 remaining, 32 are currently positive (23 residents and 9 employees) and 18 have recovered (11 residents and 7 employees).

A Department of Veterans Services spokesman said a staff member tested positive in mid-April. In mid-May, staff first detected cases among the 368 veterans living in the facility.

Prisons

State data paints a hazy picture of the spread of the coronavirus inside state corrections institutions.

Since late March, more than 4,800 inmates have contracted COVID-19, 80 of whom have died (including two “probable” deaths).

At least 725 prison workers have tested positive as well, four of whom have died.

However, the data is almost certainly an undercount. Mass-testing of Marion and Pickaway prisons revealed about 80% of inmates had been infected. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections then switched from a blanket-testing policy to only testing inmates with symptoms.

Nearly every prison in Ohio has detected the coronavirus inside. Ten prisons have double-digit caseloads.

A prisons spokeswoman said Tuesday morning that 26 inmates are currently hospitalized for COVID-19. A total of 313 have been hospitalized since April 15, she said.

Food plant outbreaks

At least 37 Clark County COVID-19 cases trace back to a Dole Fresh Vegetables plant, according to Saturday data.

Similarly, Hancock County Public Health said May 22 investigators were looking into a cluster of eight cases among employees of Hearthside Food Solutions, which makes snack foods.

HCPH representatives did not respond to a request for updated data.

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