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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.

Coronavirus In Ohio: Hospitals Banned From Sending COVID-19 Tests To Private Labs

A caregiver tests a patient for coronavirus at University Hospitals, Monday, March 16, 2020, in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press
A caregiver tests a patient for coronavirus at University Hospitals, Monday, March 16, 2020, in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton signed an order Wednesday that bans hospitals from sending COVID-19 tests to private labs. 

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the order at his daily coronavirus press conference Wednesday.

"Beginning today, when Dr. Acton signs this, you will be required to send this to another hospital that is doing testing and that can make a quick turn around for you," DeWine said.

The Ohio Department of Health on Wednesday reported that 65 people have died from COVID-19, an 18% increase from the day before. There are now 2,547 confirmed cases in 72 counties. So far, 679 people hospitalized and 222 admitted into the ICU.

However, due to limited testing capabilities, those numbers still don't come close to capturing the spread of the coronavirus in Ohio.

DeWine says private labs take between four to six days to return results, which he calls "unacceptable." He says local hospitals are able to cut that lag time significantly.

"We have already confirmed that Ohio State, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals in Cleveland and Metro Health in Cleveland all have capacity and are willing to take your tests," he says. 

DeWine hopes more hospitals will come forward to do the same.

"Some of these labs have a very significant unused capacity each day that is not really fully utilized," he said. 

The Ohio Department of Health will continue to process tests as well, but for the most part only for critical patients and health care workers.

DeWine also announced that as soon as they're made available, the state will begin using newly-developed tests that can deliver same-day results.

Copyright 2020 WOSU 89.7 NPR News

Paige Pfleger is a reporter for WOSU, Central Ohio's NPR station. Before joining the staff of WOSU, Paige worked in the newsrooms of NPR, Vox, Michigan Radio, WHYY and The Tennessean. She spent three years in Philadelphia covering health, science, and gender, and her work has appeared nationally in The Washington Post, Marketplace, Atlas Obscura and more.