State Launches Partnership to Provide Rapid, In Home COVID-19 Testing; Curfew Will be Extended
Ohio's public health departments are getting something Gov. Mike DeWine says they've wanted for a long time: rapid, in-home COVID-19 tests.
DeWine on Thursday announced a partnership between the state, Abbott Labs and digital health care company eMed to get the rapid antigen tests in the hands of local health departments and eventually, homes across the Buckeye State. The state will spend $50 million in CARES Act dollars for the tests. At $25 each, that will buy two million tests.
Abbott Labs will provide the tests and eMed personnel will offer live guidance to help people properly administer the test in their homes.
"People are anxious. They're perfectly willing and glad to do [a test] at home so they don't have to go anywhere, but they want to make sure they're performing the test correctly,” said eMed CEO Dr. Patrice Harris, former president of the American Medical Association and a psychiatrist, speaking during the governor's biweekly coronavirus briefing.
A person will log on to eMed's platform, which Harris described as being similar to Skype, and will be connected to one of the company’s live guides to help walk them through administering the test. Results are available in 15 minutes.
DeWine said this type of testing will help local health departments tamp down outbreaks by administering tests quickly and implementing immediate contact tracing to limit spread.
“As we’re going on offense and as we’re focusing on the vaccine, we have to continue to do the testing and this is going to give us a new tool,” DeWine said.
Ohio Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said these antigen tests, which originally were considered unreliable, have come a long way.
"We have a very high degree of confidence now in a positive test result from these tests," Vanderhoff said, indicating it's more likely that a false negative antigen test is incorrect. "False positives are extremely rare.”
Curfew To Be Extended
After some recent days of decline, Ohio’s case numbers, deaths, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are all back up, with 7,271 new confirmed and probable cases reported Thursday and 109 deaths; 306 people entered the hospital in the last 24 hours and 35 were admitted to intensive care units.
"One out of four people in ICUs in the state of Ohio are there because of COVID-19," DeWine said. "Out of any 200 Ohioans, at least one has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks." The state's public health alert map shows 83 counties remain red, four are orange and one — Hamilton County — remains under the highest level, purple, for spread of COVID-19.
Because of that, the governor said he is extending the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that was due to expire Jan. 23.
"We're still in a very difficult time where we're trying to balance letting people make a living, do what they want to do but at the same time not let this get out control," DeWine said.
He did not say how long the curfew extension would last, saying only that the way out of the pandemic is the vaccine, and the state continues to seek supply increases but at this point expects the same amount next week that it received for the current week.
Next week, Ohioans age 75 and up will be added to the group eligible to receive the vaccine. DeWine said if the state could get increased supplies, Ohio vaccine providers have indicated they have ample capacity to administer more shots and the state has identified 100 sites where they could administer vaccines on a large scale.
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