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COVID cases climb in Belmont County

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Health Department has received word of more positive COVID-19 tests after a student trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

As of Tuesday, the total number of infected cases has increased from 522 to 529, with 471 recoveries.

Prior to this, the number of new cases had slowed to a handful for the past two weeks.

“We’re up to 18 positives,” Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said, speaking of new cases. “One of them was an adult that went on the trip to Myrtle, and one is an adult contact of one of the people that went on the trip.”

A total of 45 of the 91 students on the trip were from Belmont County. Sproul said he is awaiting word on more results.

“We just know there were a large number of tests that were conducted (Monday) so we’ll have to wait and see when they can come through the system and back to us,” he said. Meanwhile his office will continue to trace those who the infected people might have contacted. “A lot of these people will have to look at possibly getting tested. A lot of the kids who went down and maybe not had shown signs or symptoms are now to go get tested. We’re just waiting to see what results come back.”

He continues to urge vacationers to choose their destinations with care and to continue to take precautions.

Sproul said his department also hopes to have new recoveries soon. There are currently seven people hospitalized, and 22 Belmont County residents have died while testing positive for the virus. This includes nine at the Belmont Correctional Institute. Located just west of St. Clairsville, the prison had been designated a “hot spot” of infection due to high concentrations of people, nearly 2,400 inmates, and high levels of staff infected, but those numbers seem under control according to coronavirus.ohio.gov.

Meanwhile, Sproul said Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to further address nursing home visitations in the coming week. Nursing homes and other facilities with vulnerable populations have been a subject of concern by the state in past weeks, with plans being made to assign Ohio National Guard personnel to help test staff and residents, as the Ohio National Guard assisted the prison.

Sproul said the National Guard has recently begun lending aid to Belmont County nursing homes.

“We were informed they did the Shadyside (Care Center),” he said.

The Shadyside facility could not be reached for comment. The St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools District has joined Bellaire and Shadyside in canceling sports, just as Ohio lifted restrictions on contact sports.

Meanwhile at the Union Local School District, student athletes who leave Ohio for more than a day must quarantine themselves from the team for 14 days.

Sproul and his department continues to advise the Belmont County fair board as it plans for a full fair in September.

Regarding fireworks and the coming Fourth of July events, Ohio’s legislature is considering House Bill 253 to permit home fireworks at any time, but Sproul said DeWine had expressed disapproval and said he would not support such legislation.

“He said he wouldn’t sign them if they came to his desk,” Sproul said.

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