Coronavirus: Ohio colleges, nursing homes to receive antigen tests

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Ohio colleges and universities will receive thousands of coronavirus antigen tests to help the schools implement screening guidelines encouraged by state officials.

The tests are available after the federal government bought 150 million Abbott BinaxNOW tests to be sent to the states, Gov. Mike DeWine said.

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“As we have discussed before, lab-based PCR tests are the ‘gold standard’ and provide the most accurate results,” the governor said. “We know that antigen tests -- Binax and others -- can have some level of false positives and false negatives.”

DeWine said it’s a “tradeoff” that comes with the state being able to do screening testing.

“We do have protocols to follow up on test results that are most likely to be false, but we need to be aware that this is part of testing at this scale,” he said. “The opportunity to test more broadly and more often make this an important step forward in our fight against COVID-19 spread, even with the lower sensitivity and specificity of these tests.”

The state also plans to send the tests to nursing homes.

The governor stressed that any test should not replace every day precautions such as wearing a face mask and avoiding large gatherings.

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DeWine repeated concerns that Ohio is headed in the wrong direction in its fight against coronavirus, saying it’s likely that things will get worse before they get better.

“This virus is sneaky and cunning and won’t give up," he said. “It has a mind of its own.”

While DeWine noted that Ohioans have achieved a lot compared to other states and worked hard to avoid large spikes that could overwhelm hospitals, the state may have a difficult winter ahead of it.

The governor said the state is seeing an increasing daily case average and positivity rate in recent weeks.

“As we increased testing we hoped we’d see a decrease in positivity,” DeWine said.

On Sept. 23 the positivity rate was at 2.7%. Today the seven-day daily average is 3.9%.

Nearly 1,450 cases were reported today. In the last seven days, the state has averaged 1,475 cases reported a day.

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“To put this in perspective, we had been averaging a little over 1,000 cases per day only two weeks ago,” DeWine said.

Though the state’s data is showing a concerning trend, the governor noted that Ohio has worked hard to slow the spread of the virus.

“Ohioans have done exceeding well through all of this,” he said. “What we’ve really avoided is this huge spike where we would see our hospitals overflowing.”

There have been 171,626 total cases of coronavirus and 5,017 deaths related to the virus in Ohio, according to the state health department.

On Monday, Ohio surpassed 5,000 total deaths due to the virus. It was just three days after the state reported a new record high for daily coronavirus cases.

The virus makes up nearly 5% of deaths in Ohio this year and is the fourth-leading cause of death in the state.

DeWine noted that virus will be among Ohioans until a vaccine is created, but said there are still things that people can do to help control the coronavirus.

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“Here is what we can control -- wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings,” he said. “Where we have had high mask usage, we have significantly reduced cases and spread.”

Monday also marked the first day that indoor visits could continue in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. All visits must be scheduled ahead of time. Each resident is allowed two visitors per visit for 30 minutes. All visitors are required to wear a face covering.

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