Mahoning Creates $206K Coronavirus Response Fund

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A newly established Coronavirus Response Fund will assist Mahoning County in its fight against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

During its meeting Wednesday morning, the Mahoning County Public Health board approved a resolution to create a new fund with the county auditors office to make use of a $206,064 grant received from the Ohio Department of Health. Most of the grant will be used to cover payroll costs, said Mahoning County Public Health Commissioner Ryan Tekac.

Because the grant is meant to cover all health districts in Mahoning County, the state mandated that $58,049 be contracted with the city of Youngstown to assist in its efforts to fight the coronavirus. Later in the meeting, the board approved entering into a contract with Youngstown for the mandated funds.

Dr. James Kravec, medical director for the board and Mercy Health-Youngstown chief clinical officer, addressed several issues during the meeting, beginning with why Mahoning County leads the state in deaths caused by COVID-19.

“I truly believe it’s too soon to tell,” Kravec said. “We know we have an older population, so we may have peaked a little earlier, but we don’t know.”

As of Wednesday, the county reports 41 deaths compared to Cuyahoga County, which has 39. Mahoning County Public Health reported 504 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county, of which there have been 195 hospitalizations.

Of those who have died in Mahoning County, 96% had an underlying health condition and 46% were long-term care residents, according to data from the department. The median age of those who have died is 81, and more than half (55%) are 80 years or older, while those who are between 60 and 79 comprise 38% of deaths in the county.

Kravec said he is on calls three times weekly with hospitals throughout northern Ohio, and that the “systems are collaborating more than ever.”

To make better use of the state’s resources, Gov. Mike DeWine divided the state into three regions that will collaborate and share personal protective equipment. Mahoning County’s region extends to Toledo in the West, and covers Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and down to East Liverpool.

One of the new techniques being discussed, Kravec said, was the use of convalescent plasma. The technique involves treating patients with plasma donated from people who have recovered from COVID-19, in the hopes the antibodies in the plasma will help them fight off the disease.

“We’re going to hopefully be starting that on some of our patients at the Mercy Hospitals,” Kravec said.

As for testing, Kravec said Mercy is conducting a test developed by Abbott labs at its St. Elizabeth Youngstown lab. The test can give results in 15 minutes and is “a very, very good test, limited only by the number that are available,” he said.

Due to the low number of tests, Mercy is only able to test sick patients who are hospitalized, healthcare workers and fist responders, Kravec said.

“It’s limited.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.