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Pureval joins Cleveland mayor in asking state officials for more COVID resources

Patrick Semansky, John Minchillo
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, left, and Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval. Both were installed to their posts earlier this year.

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval says state officials need to provide more support to Ohio cities struggling to curb the spread of COVID-19. Pureval joined Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb for a virtual joint news conference Tuesday asking for more resources like staff, PPE and most importantly, tests.

"[Testing] makes sure that people are safe, and they get back to work more quickly, which is critically important, not just to the city and our basic services, but our economy writ large," Pureval said. "And it also takes capacity and puts it in the hospitals and diverts that testing away from our emergency rooms, which is really clogging up a lot of our hospital capacity."

A testing initiative launched this week has already been scaled back due to staffing and logistics issues. The state health department is staffing those sites. Pureval says the state provided 3,500 tests last week, and city officials were able to procure another 30,000 tests on their own.

The Ohio National Guard is supporting other testing sites in the area:

  • Crossroads Church (990 Reading Road, Mason)
  • Riverbend (6201 Kellogg Ave.)
  • University of Cincinnati (321 Albert Sabin Way, Cincinnati)

Pureval says he's grateful for the resources provided so far, but it's not enough.
"We're struggling to get enough tests to make sure that we can fulfill the commitment we've made to have the testing available to our citizens commensurate with the demand," he said.

COVID is worse now than any other time in the pandemic, by nearly every metric. Bibb says only 45% of Cleveland residents are fully vaccinated.

"We need more support from our state leaders to make sure we have more testing available and more masks available as well," Bibb said. "Because we have all the tools in our toolbox to fix this and stop this pandemic, but we need to make sure that the access to these tools are equitable all across our city and all across our state."

Domonic Hopson, assistant health commissioner for the Cincinnati Health Department, says the city continues to break records for new cases and hospitalizations.

"On December 26, we had 159 new COVID cases in the city of Cincinnati," he said. "Less than a week later, that was 983 new cases; that's a 500% increase in one week. We have to use every tool that we have. Continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted, we have to continue to wear our masks, and we have to social distance from others when we're in public."

Asked about the likelihood of crowded bars and parties this weekend for the Bengals playoff game, Pureval did not recommend staying away.

"I think the best advice that we can provide from our public health officials is to mask and to social distance when possible," he said. "I believe that if you're wearing a mask, if you're boosted, if you're vaccinated, then you are safe. And if you're not — then you're not and you're contributing to the challenges that our hospitals are facing."

Neither Pureval nor Bibb called on Gov. Mike DeWine to reinstate restrictions like a public mask mandate. Asked last week about a local mask mandate, Pureval said the newly reformed task force would consider all possibilities — but would not say whether he will ask council to renew a public mask mandate.

Hamilton County commissioners re-declared a public health emergency Tuesday, citing the rapid spread in the community.

Pureval is set to announce "a new city protocol regarding COVID-19" on Wednesday morning at 10:30, alongside City Manager Paula Boggs Muething.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.