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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Amid Spike, Hamilton County COVID Testing And Contact Tracing To Increase

uc coronavirus testing
Courtesy of Jason Whitman
A COVID-19 testing site at UC in March.

With new Hamilton County COVID-19 cases nearing 100 a day, the county's health commissioner says the department is preparing to ramp up testing, specifically target communities affected, and increase contact tracing.

Interim Commissioner Greg Kesterman is armed with $19 million from the CARES Act to increase coronavirus testing which he says you will start noticing by the end of July. On Friday, the department announced three additional testing locations: Forest Park, Delhi Township and Colerain.

Before you go to get tested, he suggests checking the requirements on the Health Department's website or on this map, listing all available testing sites in Hamilton County.

Because of the spike in coronavirus cases, the Hamilton County Health Department is hiring 16 additional contact tracers. "We actually posted for the position and had 1,200 applicants in one day," Kesterman says.

Community contact is the biggest way the disease is spread. The group Cincinnati for Racial Justice plans a huge event at Washington Park Saturday. Health officials don't have data about whether protests are causing the COVID increase. They worry people are generally becoming tired of, or lax about, COVID-19 precautions.

"I think any big gatherings creates risk," Kesterman says. "I think the opportunity to express First Amendment speech is important. If you're going to go to an event like this, I strongly recommend wearing a face mask, social distance if possible and avoid people who don't have face masks."

He also cautions about coronavirus scams like the one the Justice Department identified. "Face Mask Exempt Cards" are being circulated on social media. There is no such thing.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.