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City of Cincinnati moves to speed up COVID-19 test results

School nurses being trained to fill in as 911 operators
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Posted at 3:25 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 18:03:44-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.

CINCINNATI – City officials say they have taken steps to speed up coronavirus test results from 8-10 days to four and are training city-employed school nurses to help in the 911 call center.

In addition, results from six persons tested through the Health Department have come back negative.

Those announcements came in a Thursday afternoon briefing by Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Patrick Duhaney and Health Commissioner Melba Moore. Earlier in the day, Hamilton County announced the first two confirmed cases in the county, but there are still no confirmed cases in the city, officials said.

WATCH the city's briefing.

Moore said the city is sending samples from tests conducted by the Health Department to a private lab in North Carolina and a state lab in Columbus.

“The question has been, ‘What’s taking so long?’” Moore said.

Moore said they had been testing for flu first and COVID-19 second and running the tests in that order, but they will reverse that process to expedite COVID-19 results.

RELATED: Long turnaround times, low supply of test kits hindering city testing

Calling them modern “Rosie the Riveters,” Cranley said some school nurses employed by the city were being trained to handle “administrative” – non-emergency – calls in the 911 call center while schools are closed.

“That’s showing the spirit this city has … to transition from one need to another. It might sound crazy but it’s inspiring,” Cranley said. “We’re lucky to have them.”

Cranley said some of the nurses might be needed on the front lines if regular 911 operators get sick or worn out.

Cranley asked Cincinnatians who can to contribute to a Regional Response Fund for this health emergency at www.gcfdn.org/COVID-19, or by texting RAPID to 91999 or calling (513) 241-2880. WCPO 9 is the fund's media sponsor.

READ about the fund.

By Thursday afternoon, there were 119 confirmed cases in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

More coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:

Ohio

  • Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
  • See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.

Kentucky

  • State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
  • See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.

Indiana

  • SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail epiresource@isdh.in.gov
  • See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms, but it can be spread even at asymptomatic stages.