Catching Our Eye: Black infant mortality, delays in COVID-19 testing, DeWine critics

    The Ohio Statehouse. Photo by Jake Zuckerman.

    Black infant mortality. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Terry DeMio is reporting, “Black infant deaths dive to new low in Hamilton County.”

    Deaths of Black babies before age 1 plummeted to a never-before-seen low in Hamilton County last year as community partners became laser-focused on health disparities for them and their moms.

    “Using the language of racism is very important,” said Meredith Shockley-Smith, director of equity and community strategies for Cradle Cincinnati. “You have to name the problem in order to be working on the solution.”

    It was that direction that Cradle Cincinnati launched in 2018, she said. The collaborative of health care, social services and civic partners took it seriously, and the turnaround was stunning.

    Black infant mortality dropped 24% in 2019 to the lowest rate Cincinnati has seen since at least 1968. That was the city’s last year of comparable data, said Cradle Cincinnati Executive Director Ryan Adcock.

    Results delayed. The Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner, William Wan and Abigail Hauslohner are reporting, “Long delays in getting test results hobble coronavirus response.”

    Test results for the novel coronavirus are taking so long to come back that experts say the results across the United States are often proving useless in the campaign to control the deadly disease.

    Some testing sites are struggling to provide results in five to seven days. Others are taking even longer. Outbreaks across the Sun Belt have strained labs beyond capacity. That rising demand, in turn, has caused shortages of swabs, chemical reagents and equipment as far away as New York.

    The long testing turnaround times are making it impossible for the United States to replicate the central strategy used by other countries to effectively contain the virus — test, trace and isolate. Like catching any killer, speed is of the essence when it comes to the coronavirus.

    “Instead of going from one step to the next, it’s like you’re already stumbling right out of the gate,” said Crystal R. Watson, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University. “It makes contact tracing almost useless. By the time a person is getting results, they already have symptoms, their contacts may already have symptoms and have gone on to infect others.”

    Having the votes. Cleveland.com’s Thomas Suddes is writing, “Gov. DeWine’s critics will keep grumbling – and voting Republican.”

    Statewide, there are Republicans and “Republicans.” It’s “socialism” if the federal and state governments provide health care to low-income Ohioans via Medicaid expansion – one of then-Gov. John Kasich’s lasting accomplishments. But the ocean of federal tax money that subsidizes Ohio agribusiness and factory farming? Hey! That’s The American Way. …

    (As) the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, five Republican county parties in western Ohio approved a letter criticizing DeWine for his stewardship of the state during the coronavirus pandemic: Darke; Mercer; Shelby; Van Wert; and Williams. (Williams is where Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, DeWine’s running mate, grew up.) Warren County’s ever-simmering GOP later chimed in. …

    The grumbling, of course, will continue; it’s a regional tradition. Last week, to fight the pandemic, DeWine ordered people to wear anti-coronavirus masks in a number of counties. Among them: Cuyahoga, Summit, Lorain and Trumbull – and Hamilton County (Cincinnati) plus two simmering Cincinnati suburbs, Butler and Clermont counties. (The village of Bethel, where Black Lives Matter protesters and counterprotesters clashed in June, is in Clermont.)

    DeWine’s order won’t win him fans among Republican voters predisposed to complain. But it will save lives – including the lives of Ohioans who will survive to gripe another day.