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Area businesses reporting COVID among staff

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is active again in Eastern Ohio with some businesses reporting limited infections among their employees.

According to Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul and Joe Bell, spokesman for the Cafaro Co. that owns the Ohio Valley Mall, these cases were caught early and sanitization has taken place.

The newest spike in cases has been traced to a trip by almost 100 student-athletes to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, including 45 Belmont County students.

For two weeks prior to the trip, Belmont County’s new cases were decreasing.

Some of the returning students went to work. Last week, an employee at Kroger at Bellaire who had gone on the trip tested positive.

An employee at a Dairy Queen in Shadyside has also tested positive.

“The Dairy Queen was a Myrtle Beach trip person that was dealt with last week,” Sproul said in a text.

Bell said one employee at Finish Line shoe store at the mall has tested positive. The employee had been on a vacation trip to Florida.

“So they shut down the store. She was only in contact with her manager, so he’s tested and I think he’s awaiting results, but he was quarantined immediately,” Bell said. “(Sunday) night they were deep-cleaning the store. They had a professional cleaning crew in to sanitize things.”

Bell said he has spoken with the health department and was informed there was no contact with customers.

“Contact was limited to the manager. We don’t know this employee’s contacts with other social friends and things like that outside of the mall,” Bell said.

Sproul said the latest count was a total of 554 positive cases and 500 recoveries.

Bell commended the precautions taken by businesses at the mall.

“The different stores, all the merchants have been doing really well. They’ve been working really hard to abide by all the guidelines. They’ve been very conscientious about cleaning or distancing. They have their employees trained to do it.

“All the employees are wearing facial coverings. They really got into the program really quickly because they all wanted to get open and do business again.”

In terms of the mall vendors’ ability to conduct business, Bell said activity has been slowly returning.

“People are responding. We have people who’ve come back and are anxious to shop and stroll and have lunch and dinner,” he said.

“It does slow things down for sure because whenever you have to limit the circulation of people through your place of business, you can’t serve as many customers as quickly, so it places some crimps on the way you can do business, but people have been patient. …

“People have been willing to sit and wait a couple minutes.”

In other matters, Sproul said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has announced the restrictions that were expected to expire Wednesday will be extended to the end of the week.

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