UCHD: Healthcare workers should receive priority for testing

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Members of the Union County Board of Health practiced social distancing during its regular board meeting, as it was moved to a larger conference room and each member had their own table. (Journal-Tribune photo by Kayleen Petrovia)

Despite concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, Union County officials are asking residents to remain calm as tests are reserved for the most vulnerable.
During Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting, board members and Union County Health Department (UCHD) staff discussed why it is important to prioritize testing “critical infrastructure” workers, like healthcare providers.
“We need to make sure physicians are still there to take care of all the other issues that keep us alive every other day of the year,” Union County Health Commissioner Jason Orcena said.
Orcena said there is an “extremely low” capacity for testing in Ohio – a sentiment echoed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
However, Orcena said there is a common misunderstanding among the public that other areas have ease of access to immediate testing.
In areas with larger screening systems, Orcena said medical professionals first screen patients with moderate to severe symptoms. If those patients are ill enough to qualify for a test, they would then be assigned a time and appointment for testing.
“It’s not like a minute clinic,” Orcena explained.
Regardless, he said residents should not worry about testing because it has little impact on how patients are treated.
“The thing about testing is it makes difference clinically,” Dr. Justin Krueger, board member, said.
Testing is used as a way to enforce isolation, but doesn’t change treatment otherwise, Krueger said.
Orcena said there is no therapeutic treatment for COVID-19. So, generally healthy people who experience symptoms of the coronavirus will be told to stay home and self-isolate whether they test positive or not.
Given that there are multiple confirmed cases of community spread in Franklin County, Orcena said the health department and partner agencies are acting as though there are cases in Union County – even though there are no confirmed cases.
“Guaranteed it’s here, no doubt,” Orcena said.
He said it is crucial to “manage what resources we have” because the seriously ill need the limited number of hospital beds.
Of those who have COVID-19, Orcena said about 80% will experience mild to moderate symptoms, whereas the risk is elevated for vulnerable populations like the elderly.
Not only do the vulnerable populations need to be protected, but the medical professionals who care for them, Orcena said.
He said testing is prioritized for healthcare providers and first responders because losing them to self-quarantines could potentially cripple the hospital system.
“If you have a heart attack, you want to know that there’s a hospital bed waiting for you and an EMS to take you there,” Orcena said.
Board President Keith Watson, also a Lieutenant with the Marysville Division of Fire, said first responders are also doing their part to stay safe.
He said responders are preparing themselves with personal protective equipment (PPE), like face masks and gloves, to respond to potential cases of COVID-19.
“The EMS community – I think we are leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of people,” Watson said.



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