While officials prepare to work the weekend fine-tuning the partial reopening of Ohio – and striving to protect Ohioans from coronavirus infections – Gov. Mike DeWine announced a “breakthrough” of expanded testing at his news conference Friday.

DeWine plans to announce Monday the businesses and employers that will be allowed to open May 1 – which is next Friday – and the precautions that will be required amid the phased-in reopening of the state’s shuttered economy. More testing is seen as key to restraining COVID-19’s spread.

DeWine said a double dose of “good news” – more swabs and more reagent to analyze samples – will escalate virus testing to 7,200 a day beginning next week, with the number projected to increase to 22,000 daily by late May.

The state now tests an average of 3,728 people each day, so 22,000 daily tests in about a month would represent a near sixfold increase.

The state also hopes to deploy about 1,700 people from local health departments for contact tracing to track down and isolate people who were in contact with virus victims, to help check the spread of COVID-19.

The state announced Friday 475 more confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, a decrease from the previous day’s total of 577, and 34 more deaths from the infectious respiratory disease pushing the total to 690. Six new deaths were reported in Stark and Summit counties.

About 90% of the deaths have come among Ohioans 60 years and older, with people age 80 and older accounting for nearly half of deaths.

DeWine said the partial reopening plan that he plans to unveil Monday will lay out a “schedule,” not specifying whether it also will identify dates for other businesses to reopen in coming weeks. It depends, he said, on how high virus numbers climb.

“We obviously want to get people back to working again, get people’s lives as back to normal as possible again,” he said. “We’re going to start with those things that have the best ability to protect people.”

While acknowledging a shortage of masks and cleaning supplies, DeWine said businesses must secure them to protect employees and customers before they can open.

Social distancing and other precautions that helped hold a feared coronavirus spike to a bump, and steel the medical system for any major outbreak, will continue, DeWine said.

Amid a protest calling for the release of more inmates from Ohio’s prisons, there were no significant increases in virus cases in state prisons reported Friday, after about 80% of inmates tested positive at both Marion and Pickaway correctional institutions. Twelve more prison employees tested positive Friday, bringing that total to 358.

The prison death toll remained at 18 – 11 inmates at Pickaway, four inmates and a correction officer at Marion and two inmate patients at Franklin Medical Center in Columbus. The prison system has accounted for 28% of all statewide cases.

A shortage of a reagent — the main ingredient for chemical-based testing – has been a problem in Ohio. That, and a problem in getting testing swabs, has thwarted expanded testing, DeWine said, adding help is at hand.

First, a reagent for testing labs developed by Thermo Fisher Scientific, with its Ohio office in Columbus, was approved by the FDA earlier this week and will begin flowing to in-state labs.

Second, ROE Dental Laboratory of Cleveland will make up to 1 million testing swabs by importing more 3-D printers and recalling 100 employees to work around the clock, DeWine said. Formlabs, a 3-D printing company in Toledo, was working with Ohio State University and Battelle in Columbus to make swabs, but many more were needed.

The critical supplies will allow testing to escalate dramatically and focus testing attention on areas such as nursing homes and newly developed “hot spots” that surface, the governor said.

Testing largely has remained restricted to suspected virus patients, health-care workers and those with health conditions that make getting the coronavirus more dangerous.

A total of 102,235 coronavirus tests — among 11.7 million Ohioans — had been administered as of Thursday, with 14.4% returning positive.

Dr. Amy Acton, state health director, missed Friday’s news briefing as she works to expand testing and enact contact tracing.

Dr. Mark Hurst, the state health department’s medical director, talked via a video link with DeWine, who drew stick figures to show virus spread among people while describing “a very robust, very aggressive tracing system.”

The program will track down and isolate Ohioans who were exposed to a person with the virus to help prevent the infection from being spread. Efforts are underway to hire tracers, including furloughed medical workers, and recruit volunteers, Hurst said.

In a letter to DeWine, Ohio Senate Democrats called Friday for placing public health ahead of economic considerations in reopening the state.

“It’s important that we get this absolutely right,” said Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights. The minority Democrats are demanding increased testing and the mandatory wearing of masks, for example. “The economy is not going to recover if customers are afraid to go shopping and employees are afraid to go to work,” he said.

In the letter, the Democrats wrote: “Our number one priority as a state must be to protect the health and safety of all Ohioans. We oppose any plan that disproportionately prioritizes the economy over people’s lives.”

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Ohio cases

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Cases per capita by county