Ohio Coronavirus Task Force

Ohio Coronavirus Task Force

With the emergence of COVID-19, the state of Ohio looked to Cleveland Clinic for guidance on managing the pandemic. In March 2020, Governor Mike DeWine convened the Ohio Coronavirus Task Force and tapped Robert Wyllie, MD, Cleveland Clinic’s Chief of Medical Operations, and Ann Hamilton, Cleveland Clinic’s Government Relations Executive Director, as members. The Task Force, comprised of medical and public health experts, provided the governor with insight into COVID-19 and developed a strategic plan to prepare for a potential surge of patients during the pandemic.

Among its recommendations, the Task Force suggested the state streamline its hospital preparedness regions into three zones to coordinate health care delivery efficiently between local health departments, medical providers and congregate living facilities. Dr. Wyllie was appointed to lead Zone 1 (Cleveland and all of Northern Ohio) and convened Cleveland Clinic hospitals with University Hospitals and MetroHealth; the hospitals committed collectively to expand local health care delivery. As part of zone management, partners communicated frequently to review hospital surge plans and ensure a balance of patient loads among area hospitals.

Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals partnered in planning testing sites and management of Zone 1 post-acute care facilities. Congregate facilities posed a unique challenge when it came to social distancing and preventing the spread of COVID-19. At the early stages of the pandemic, residents in congregate facilities from assisted living homes to skilled nursing facilities nationally accounted for 7% of the patients infected with COVID, but 40% of the fatalities. Both Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital trained swab teams to test facility employees and residents while providing PPE and medical advice as needed.

State facilities, including correctional facilities, house approximately 50,000 individuals, and Ohio’s nearly 900 privately-operated nursing facilities care for 70,000 residents and employ 80,000 individuals. Zone 1 partners linked each of the facilities with a medical provider and the local health department and then coordinated laboratory testing of all employees and symptomatic residents. One of Zone 1’s first challenges arose at the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution in Columbiana County, which had several hundred COVID-positive inmates and guards. Those requiring hospitalization quickly overwhelmed the local hospitals in Salem and East Liverpool. Cleveland Clinic and its partners organized a cascading system of care to send patients to Akron and then Cleveland to relieve the smaller hospitals. This protocol was followed weeks later when a similar situation occurred in the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky. The presence and leadership of Cleveland Clinic and its partners alleviated community fears and helped manage outbreaks.

In addition, Cleveland Clinic's expertise informed an early warning system that was demonstrated to the State of Ohio. Early in the pandemic, Cleveland Clinic Enterprise Analytics modeled a 21-county referral area, and combining data with University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University, developed a geospatial analytic platform to identify clusters of COVID-positive patients. Governor DeWine subsequently requested hospitals work with the Ohio Hospital Association to develop the statewide monitoring system currently in place to alert local health departments and educational institutions about potential outbreaks. Early identification initially led local health departments to distribute masks and emphasize PPE use and has been used to help target vaccinations for those at risk. While developed to address COVID-19 infections, this system can also be used to identify and track other outbreaks or public health issues.

Government Relations

Government Relations

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