Ohio ‘drastically increasing’ coronavirus testing capacity with Cleveland dental lab partnership

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) — Governor Mike DeWine has reached an agreement with a Cleveland-based company to increase Ohio’s coronavirus testing capacity.

DeWine says Ohio faced two challenges in regards to testing:

  1. Labs did not have enough testing reagent
  2. Ohio did not have enough swabs to conduct tests

Earlier this week the Governor announced that the Food and Drug Administration approved a new testing reagent created by a company called Thermo Fisher that would be able to nearly double or triple the state’s testing capacity.

During his Friday afternoon news conference, DeWine announced the state reached an agreement with another company that aims to address the state’s lack of swabs.

Cleveland-based company Roe Dental Lab will be manufacturing up to 1 million swabs to support Ohio’s testing efforts.

“Roe Dental Lab usually produces dental restorations, such as crowns, dentures, and dental surgical guides, said Governor DeWine. “The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association helped Roe Dental Lab secure the specifications to manufacture swabs from Formlabs, a 3D printing company in Toledo.”

Beginning 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.

The swabs are unique and require a certain type of 3D printer to mass produce them.

“The tip of the swab has to be designed in a certain way,” said BJ Kowalski, President, ROE Dental Laboratory in Independence.

The lab already had a large number the special 3D printers, but have now purchased dozens more, “At this point, I think we might be one of the largest fleets of this type of 3D printer in the country,” said Kowalski.

Kowalski says, they’ve already begun bringing back more than 100 employees who were laid off after the virus shut down dental offices and they will be able to produce up to 15-thousand swabs per day, while also practicing safe social distancing.

“We’re looking forward to helping everyone,” said Kowalski, “Feels rewarding to do something good.”

DeWine said Roe Dental’s contribution will bring nearly 100 Ohioans back to work.

“They are the newest partner with the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association to help us meet our need. Roe Dental Lab has invested in more will bring nearly 100 employees back to work to produce swabs around the clock, while practicing safe social distancing,” DeWine said.

The Governor says these partnerships will “drastically increase” Ohio’s ability to test in their priority areas such as:

  • Ohio will have a greater ability test in nursing homes and see where there are problems
  • State can better identify other hot spots and go in more aggressively
  • Ohio can focus on congregate living settings, such as homeless shelters, treatment centers, developmental disability homes
  • Ohio will be better able to make sure food/grocery workers and employees in essential manufacturing facilities are healthy & not spreading the disease
  • Increased is going to enable Ohio to stand up a very robust contact exposure tracing ability.

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