Boost in confirmed coronavirus cases expected as testing ramps up in Ohio

More Ohioans are expected to be diagnosed with COVID-19 with the increase in testing but experts caution that while the jump in confirmed cases is worrisome, the numbers are driven in part by the new availability of testing.

“We are going to see a marked increase in the number of cases because we are doing more testing and we are getting test results back,” said Dr. Glen Solomon, chairman of the department of internal medicine at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine. “I think we should all be concerned but not panicked.”

On Wednesday local officials announced three people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Kettering Medical Center treated a man in his 60s who came in Saturday and was discharged Sunday in good condition and ordered to self-isolate, said Liz Long, spokeswoman for the Kettering Health Network. His COVID-19 test came back positive on Wednesday.

Two patients who were both at the same Miami County skilled nursing and short-term rehabilitation facility are considered positive for COVID-19, and a total of 17 other residents, staff and visitors who came into contact with them have been tested, health officials from Miami and Clark counties said Wednesday night. Those tested are awaiting results.

One of the two is a man in his 70s who has been admitted to the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The other is a woman in her 60s.

Health officials are working to determine who came into contact with those two patients at the Koester Pavilion in Troy. That includes 10 other residents of the facility, six staff members and one visitor.

Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said the veteran is from Bethel Twp. in Clark County.

“Understand that this is a trying time and its definitely an unprecedented time in our history,” Patterson said of the COVID-19 crisis.

The test results for the other people connected to the assisted living facility were expected within 24 hours.

“Koester Pavilion did absolutely everything they were supposed to do following those orders … it’s just a community spread incident. We can’t give you any details when and where it started because we don’t have enough information yet,” Miami County Health Commissioner Dennis Propes said.

Patterson added the counties “have already been in contact with individuals, we’ve placed them under quarantine to make sure that these case contacts aren’t in turn able to spread it to additional folks out there.”

The veteran was transferred to the Dayton VA Medical Center and, “placed into contact isolation for an unrelated medical condition shortly before he began exhibiting any symptoms related to COVID-19,” the VA said in a statement.

“Because proper procedures were followed, the risk of transmission to other patients and staff remains low,” the medical center said. “The veteran is being cared for in respiratory isolation by staff who are specially trained on the Centers for Disease Control treatment guidelines, including the use of personal protective equipment and infection control techniques.”

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VA staff who might have been in close contact to the patient are being reviewed by infection control experts and will be contacted to review risk and next steps, the VA added.

While the coronavirus news has continued to rapidly change, Montgomery County Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper said on Wednesday that one thing remains constant: It is crucial for the community that those with symptoms need to stay home to stop exponential spread.

“Stay home. That also includes household members who may not be sick but have been exposed to you,” Cooper said.

A delay at the CDC kept test kits from being widely available until earlier this month. So health officials say it is natural that the number of positive cases has jumped because many jurisdictions are just now able to test large numbers of people.

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About 80 percent of people who are infected only have mild symptoms, said Dan Suffoletto, public information supervisor at Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County.

Most people in the Dayton region already might have been exposed and cleared the virus without serious effects, said Dr. Joseph Allen, regional medical director for Premier Health.

In Ohio there are 88 confirmed cases in 19 counties, and 26 people have been hospitalized, according to the Ohio Department of Health website.

Nationwide there are 7,038 total confirmed or presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 reported to or tested by the CDC since Jan. 21, according to the agency’s website. There have been 97 deaths.

Drive-up testing for the coronavirus began in Dayton on Tuesday for people who have a doctor's note saying a test is needed. The site, a collaboration between Premier Health and the University of Dayton, is at the UD Arena parking lot, 1801 Edwin C. Moses Blvd., and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Health professionals will collect a specimen using a nasal swab that will be sent to a Quest Diagnostics lab for testing. Most patients were initially tested for flu and if they tested negative went on to more extensive testing that included the COVID-19 test.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, 508 people were tested, including 542 who were tested for COVID-19 and 38 people who tested positive for influenza on Tuesday and Wednesday. COVID-19 results take 24 to 48 hours, said Sharon Howard, director of site communications for Premier Health.

People will only be tested if they have a doctor’s order, which is based on symptoms, direct contact with an infected person and travel to a country that has an outbreak. Howard said 80 people were turned away from the drive-through site because they did not have a physician’s order.

Patients with COVID-19 symptoms — cough, fever and shortness of breath — who need a doctor’s order but do not have one can call Primary Health Solutions at (937) 535-5060, local public health officials said. The new-to-Dayton practice has extra capacity and is screening patients remotely to see what treatment they need. Primary Health Solutions is a federally qualified health center, which gets funding for catering to those with Medicaid and the uninsured.

RELATED: Coronavirus testing available for those with doctor’s note

Allen said people who are coming to be tested are definitely concerned.

“There is a healthy dose of fear and that is bred by the unknown,” Allen said. “I spoke with a young lady who had just come back from Seattle and she was afraid.”

He said the woman had symptoms and was tested, although the results are not yet known.

Allen said officials are talking about further limiting who can get tested due to declining supplies in the test kits. Currently Premier has enough to do five to seven more days of specimen collections at the drive-up site.

Solomon said COVID-19 is notable because no one has immunity to it and “it causes a more severe infection with pneumonia and respiratory symptoms” compared to some other viruses that people typically get. He said there is no medicine to treat COVID-19 but its symptoms can be treated with things like ventilators.

Both Allen and Solomon believe that the dramatic steps taken by Ohio — closing schools, restaurants and bars, postponing the primary election and other measures to encourage social distancing — is going to blunt the impact of the virus.

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“It’s flat out going to save lives,” Solomon said. “We’re going to see a lower infection rate because we are keeping people away from each other.”

If the number of COVID-19 cases can be kept under control it will keep the hospitals and other medical facilities from being overwhelmed during a period when they are already dealing with a severe influenza season and the usual late winter ills. And with all the social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing going on, Solomon said there should be a drop in the spread of other communicable illnesses.

“If we do everything right it’s going to look like we overreacted,” Allen said.

Staff writers Riley Newton and Hasan Karim contributed to this report.

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