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Belmont coping with COVID spike, anticipating more

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — More Belmont County’s residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, with the total increasing to 537 as of Wednesday.

The prior day’s total was 529.

“That’s where we’re at right now,” Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul told the Belmont County board of commissioners during their Wednesday meeting. “We get more results every day so I’m sure it’s going to see a few more,” he said. “We have reached out to all their contacts and got those quarantined and just kind of monitoring. No hospitalization. They’re symptomatic, but they’re not to the point of going to the hospital.”

He said some are feverish and all feel generally ill.

“They weren’t wearing masks, social distancing. Young kids there at the beach, they’ve been quarantined for how long, stuff was closed down, the weather’s nice, they let their guard down,” Sproul said. “I try to impress upon people, it’s still out there.”

Commissioner J.P. Dutton commented that Belmont County’s new positive cases had slowed dramatically in the weeks prior to the students’ trip. Sproul agreed.

“For two days we had none, then maybe one or two a day,” Sproul said. “We were really starting to get a handle on it. My fear happened.”

“This is something that’s been talked about across the country the last couple weeks,” Dutton said. “Even as things level off, we’re going to see instances like this.”

“We’re hoping that it doesn’t force the governor to reinstitute the travel ban,” Sproul said.

Some of the new cases Wednesday include students who participated in a trip to Myrtle Beach in So

uth Carolina. Sproul said one adult went to Myrtle Beach. The new cases also include two adults and one youth contact of the travelers. Of the more than 90 students on the trip, 45 were from Belmont County.

Sproul said his department is awaiting the latest news from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office for guidelines about possible school reopenings in fall.

“We’re going to work with the schools,” he said. “It’s a very, very difficult thing to think about. How are you going to transport the kids? Keep the kids separated? Educate them and get them back home safely, monitor them, and you’ve got the sports involved too, and when you hit fall you also have the flu coming into the mix. I feel for the superintendents and the schools. This is going to be a very, very difficult task for them.”

Most recently, Martins Ferry City School District has suspended athletic workouts through July 9.

They join the St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools District, Bellaire and Shadyside in ceasing sports activities.

“Just in case one of the students get back, and they don’t get tested and they’re asymptomatic, so they’re not on the football field or the ball field,” Sproul said.

Contact sports were permitted again by the state this week.

Other restrictions will expire July 1.

Sproul said while masks alone may be limited in their effectiveness depending on their quality and how well they are worn and handled, masks combined with other measures such as social distancing and sanitization could slow the virus and serve as effective protections.

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