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Belmont County records 21 COVID deaths

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The unofficial death toll for COVID-19 related patients is now up to 21 in Belmont County.

On Wednesday, Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reported the latest death, a woman in her 80s. Sproul said she was the resident of a nursing home.

This marks the third death of a positive nursing or group home home resident since last week. However, the official count is still less than 20, since Sproul is still working with the Ohio Department of Health to confirm all eight inmates of the Belmont Correctional Institute who tested positive and since died.

The eight are listed on coronavirus.ohio.gov, but Sproul said some were likely transported outside the county for treatment and died elsewhere.

Other numbers continue to hold steady, with a total of 472 Belmont County residents testing positive, and 405 recoveries. Sproul said four people remain hospitalized.

The correctional institute, which is located just west of St. Clairsville and houses close to 2,500 inmates, is listed as having 83 positive cases, with 89 recoveries, and six awaiting pending test results.

Since the pandemic’s onset, Ohio’s prisons have pursued a policy of sanitization and efforts to reduce crowding. However, the Belmont County facility has been designated a “hot spot” of coronavirus infection, particularly due to high numbers of staff who had tested positive. Latest reports a total of 96 positive staff members and 72 recoveries. The Ohio National Guard and Ohio State Highway Patrol have been assigned to assist inside the prison and to patrol the perimeter respectively.

Sproul has said the high number of inmates and the prison layout has made social distancing difficult.

The state has authority over activity and safeguards in the prison, but Sproul said after every positive staff member report, his office is active in contacting family members and people they might have interacted with.

Virus infection in nursing homes has been a focus of the state since last week, with Gov. Mike DeWine assigning Ohio National Guard to assist in testing staff.

According to coronavirus.ohio.gov, resident or staff cases have been confirmed at ResCare John Avenue Home intermediate care facility in St. Clairsville, ResCare Mount Hope Home in Flushing, Sienna Hills Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation outside Adena, ResCare Airport Road Homes Individual ICFs in St. Clairsville, and Belmont Manor in St. Clairsville.

Also Walton Retirement Home in Barnesville released a statement Saturday reporting some residents have been infected.

Many are also voicing concern that recent protest and riots will result in a spike of COVID-19 cases.

Sproul has advised protestors to maintain social distancing, face covering and sanitary measures while protesting. He said the state has so far given no word about virus expectations resulting from these assemblies. Sproul said his office will be asking new individuals who have tested positive if they had participated in a protest.

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