MEIGS COUNTY — We have heard concerns from county residents who are questioning why the Meigs County Health Department is not reporting the number of COVID-19 tests being performed on Meigs County residents, nor the number of negative cases.
The truth is, we don’t truly know how many tests have been run, nor the accurate number of negatives results, because according to guidance from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), the Health Department does not have to be notified of every test completed. We’re only required to be notified of the ones that come back as a confirmed COVID-19 cases. With our geographical location, people travel to multiple locations for medical treatment, not only in Ohio, but also across the river in West Virginia, which makes the tracking of testing even harder.
We are confident, though, that people from Meigs County are having specimens collected at locations throughout the region, including locally at the Holzer Pomeroy Emergency Department.
The Meigs County Health Department, also, does not order the COVID-19 test or complete the screening process to see if an individual is eligible to receive the test. The Health Department can request that an individual be tested if the person does not have a primary care provider; however, the individual still goes through a screening process at the specimen collection location and can be denied the test based on the testing criteria standards the hospital receives from the CDC and ODH, which have been stringent due to the lack of tests and specimen collection tools available.
Many of the tests, which are being run, have also been sent to private companies who are completing the testing for multiple locations throughout the region and country, which is causing the testing to take days to be completed. This is why ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton ordered, today, that more tests be completed within Ohio at hospitals with the ability to run the test for COVID-19, which include The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic. By using these locations, the speed of test results should become faster.
Another concern we have is, if we had all the negative case numbers, this could cause a false sense of hope that the COVID-19 virus is not in Meigs County. We, however, believe it is in the county, but individuals are not seeking testing, but are rather staying home and waiting it out, just as they would for a cold or the flu. This false sense could cause individuals to begin to not adhere to social distancing, and then the virus will spread more quickly in our area “raising the curve” and causing major issues for local hospitals, who could see a large surge in patients. So, in the grand scheme of things, if we could get this data, would it really help anything, or would it cause the number of cases to sky rocket?
The final issue we would like to address is travelers from other countries. We have heard of individuals returning from other countries that have not been contacted by the health department. When an individual returns from abroad, the information is given to the Ohio Department of Health by the federal government. Next, the information about the traveler is distributed to the local health department. If this information does not make it to the ODH, we do not receive it. The Meigs County Health Department has been notified of some travelers who have returned to the county by ODH, and we have also contacted by individuals who want to do what is best when they return. These travelers are then placed in self-quarantine for 14 days so they can monitor for symptoms. If symptoms occur, the health department and the individual’s primary care provider are contacted for further guidance.
The Meigs County Health Department has been as transparent as possible with the residents of Meigs County on the testing process on multiple occasions, including social media posts, updating our COVID-19 website page (www.meigs-health.com), and articles, which have been published by our media partners. We, also, have conducted multiple calls with county government officials, local government officials, first responders, healthcare facilities and partner organizations so that all can be as prepared as possible for cases of COVID-19. This includes supplying PPE from the strategic national stockpile, the Meigs County Health Department stockpile, and donations to multiple agencies throughout the county, along with assisting the Meigs County Emergency Management Agency to get the Blue Med Tent placed at the Holzer Emergency Department, which will allow for a surge of patients, should that occur.
Numerous staff members and partners have worked countless hours to protect Meigs County to the best of our ability during these unprecedented times and will continue to do so till COVID-19 is mitigated.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to call, email, or message the Meigs County Health Department, we would be happy to speak with you about your concerns.
Brody Davis is the Meigs County Health Department Public Health Emergency Response Coordinator and Public Information Officer.