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Hamilton County Awards Contract To Increase COVID-19 Testing

A UC Health drive-thru COVID-19 screening facility opens for patients in the wake of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Cincinnati.
Jason Whitman
A UC Health drive-thru COVID-19 screening facility opens for patients in the wake of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Cincinnati.

The Hamilton County commissioners are using $18 million of federal CARES Act funding to increase COVID-19 testing and data collection in the county. 

The commission approved a contract Thursday with The Health Collaborative for that effort.  It's a non-profit agency working to improve health and health care in the region. It will be working with several private medical providers on the project.

"We estimate it will be possible to conduct an additional 175,000 tests for COVID-19 infection in Hamilton County," said Dr. Michael Lyons from UC Medical Center. "Approximately 35,000 of those will be in the context of outreach directly into the community by our early intervention testing program, specifically targeting populations that are most at risk and most vulnerable."

A statement from the county said the project will include several initiatives:

  • Expanding testing program to target populations including:
  1. Residents and staff of congregate care facilities
  2. First responders and frontline workers such as case workers; in-home service providers; and other employees deemed essential
  3. Vulnerable and high-risk populations in Hamilton County
  • Testing in response to outbreaks
  • Serological testing to determine the extent of previous infection
  • Data collection and integration

"It's not just increasing the volume of testing," said Dr. Stephen Davis with Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "It's really important to know our goal is to test the right people at the right time in a location that they can get to." 

And there's also a goal to make sure people are getting test results in a timely manner.

"We will also try to make sure that we know the day-to-day capacity of all the labs in the region," Davis said. "And when we go to a location and do 500 tests, we'll make sure that we send them to the labs in a manner that they'll be able to get quick turnaround time."

The Health Collaborative will also be tasked with coming up with a plan to track the number of people tested; positive and negative results; demographics; test site locations; and a breakdown of testing costs.

"Increasing COVID-19 testing will help to relieve the fear of the unknown," said Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas in a statement. "There is already enough stress and anxiety dealing with this unprecedented moment. Testing is a part of a combination of other strategies that the county is using to keep people safe."

Meanwhile, the commission also voted Thursday to use another $2 million of CARES Act money for rental assistance in the county. The first allocation announced a couple weeks ago had already been exhausted.

Another $500,000 of CARES money is going to Strategies to End Homelessness so it can provide funding to homeless shelters in the county to place residents in hotels and motels because of the pandemic.

Kevin Finn with the agency said at one point seven of the homeless shelters in the county had closed and relocated residents to hotels and motels. That number is now down to four that remain closed and those all serve families who are homeless.

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Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.