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City, County Coordinating On Coronavirus Response

Northeast Ohio health officials are working together to limit the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Cuyahoga County and Cleveland’s city leaders both declared emergencies shortly after the Ohio Department of Health confirmed three cases of COVID-19 in the county Monday. The declarations allow county government to make purchases more quickly. The City of Cleveland will convene a task force to recommend changes to city rules.

“Containment is our priority,” Public Health Director Merle Gordon told Cleveland City Council on Thursday, “and while mitigation is happening as well, it is still all about containing and making sure that the spread does not continue.”

Containment efforts include identifying close contacts of the three county residents who contracted coronavirus while traveling outside Ohio, Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan said.

As community transmission of the virus within Ohio takes off, health officials will move toward mitigation efforts like advising “social distancing” and remote work, he said.

“What we’re concerned about in particular are folks who have chronic illnesses,” Allan said. “Heart disease, asthma, folks that may have limited lung function like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, folks who may be being treated for cancer and are immune suppressed.”

The Ohio Department of Health is handling tests for those with the most serious illnesses who are most at risk, he said, with a turnaround of 24 hours.

Area hospitals are starting to expand their own testing capacity, Allan said later Thursday, at a City Club of Cleveland forum.

“We’re going to see growth in testing capacity in the coming weeks,” Allan said.

In two to three weeks, MetroHealth Medical Center hopes to be able to conduct 500 tests a day, CEO Akron Boutros said at City Club.

First responders are also making preparations. Frontline Cleveland police officers already carry gloves and face masks, Chief Calvin Williams told council. The city is now ordering gowns and face shields as well, he said.

If 911 gets a call about a potential COVID-19 caseEMS leadership will consult with the health department for guidance on how to respond, Deputy EMS Commissioner David Miller told council. And an ambulance is on reserve for such cases, he said, so as not to put ambulances out of service for hours of decontamination.

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