DeWine expands foster care programs during pandemic; increases COVID-19 testing, tracing

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) — Governor Mike DeWine says Ohio has increased testing capacity and will begin contact tracing in effort to stop further spread of the coronavirus.

As of Friday, there were 15,169 confirmed and probable cases of the virus in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health said 690 people have died from COVID-19 in the state.

During his Friday afternoon news briefing, Governor DeWine announced that Ohio entered a new partnership with Cleveland-based Roe Dental Labs. The company will be manufacturing 1 million swabs over the next few weeks, drastically increasing the state’s ability to test for COVID-19.

DeWine says this upcoming Wednesday, Ohio’s testing capability will be at least 7,200 tests per day. The Governor says that number will go to 15,000 by May 6; 18,800 by May 13; and 22,000 by May 27. Click here for more on this new partnership.

State leaders also announced their plan to begin contact tracing in Ohio. They are partnering with Massachusetts-based organization Partners in Health on this effort.

The Ohio Department of Health explained what contact tracing is with an example using a fictitious character named “Bill.” Here’s how it works:

  • Bill shows signs of COVID-19, so he contacts his healthcare provider for advice.
  • His healthcare provider instructs Bill to isolate himself and likely orders a coronavirus test for him.
  • Bill takes the test and receives results within a couple of days.
  • If Bill tests positive for COVID-19, healthcare officials will reach out to Bill to ensure he was isolating himself. They will also have a conversation with him about who he may have been in contact with not only while he was ill, but also the 48 hours before he was ill.
  • The health care worker will determine who came into contact with Bill, how close that person came into contact with him and how long that exposure lasted.
  • If a person who came into contact with Bill is considered “at risk” health officials will tell that person to quarantine themselves for 14 days and check their temperature twice a day. They will update the Ohio Department of Health about their condition.
  • Those people can send a message to the ODH site updating their condition each day.
  • If one of those people who came into contact with Bill start showing symptoms, they will need to go through the same process he went through with their healthcare provider. The process then repeats.

“This is the general procedure that has been done for decades with many infectious diseases. It’s not a new process, but what is new is the volume we have,” said Governor DeWine. “This is all voluntary – but the response has been outstanding. Most people want to protect their family, friends, and others in the community. We’ve only had concerns in fewer than 10 cases of people not adhering to these guidelines.”

The Governor reiterates that testing and tracing do not replace the other precautions they have encouraged Ohioans to take.

Governor DeWine also notified Ohioans that he is expanding funding and programs within the state’s foster care.

Over the next three months, a 200+ youth will turn 18 and “age out” of Ohio’s foster care system. DeWine says the state will cover the costs for all of these youth to stay in care until the pandemic ends.

Ohio is also making this option available for the young people in the state’s Bridges program, which is a foster care to age 21 program. Those turning 21 over the next few months can stay in Bridges to help them maintain their housing, jobs and education

“These changes will ensure that no child leaves care during this pandemic without a safe place to call home,” he said.

Ohio will start its gradual reopening on May 1. DeWine says he unveil details regarding this plan on Monday.

“We want to get people working again and get them back to as normal a life as possible, but we have to be careful. We don’t want to see spikes in cases and we don’t want to have to pull back. We will be laying out a hopeful schedule on Monday,” explained DeWine. “Our plan will have a great emphasis on safety for employees. We will go further than we did in our first order about defining how employers must protect employees.”

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