COVID reprieve comes to end in Eastern Ohio

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County’s brief hiatus from new COVID-19 cases appears to be over, as more residents traveling outside the county brought the virus back with them.

Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said the county is up to 544 total positive cases as of Thursday, increasing from Wednesday’s 537 and 529 on Tuesday.

Of these, 483 have recovered, leaving 71 active cases.

Sproul said of the new cases, 25 are students or adults who went on a trip to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. More than 90 students participated, including 45 Belmont County residents. Sproul said many became careless about practicing social distancing and taking other precautions while on vacation.

In addition four recently infected individuals went to Panama City in Florida, one in Texas and one in Arizona.

He said even more new cases are expected.

“We are being told that a large number of people went through the Wheeling drive-through testing over the past few days,” Sproul said in a text message.

In addition, two positive cases were reported among employees at the Kroger supermarket in Bellaire.

“We called Kroger’s about the issue and they gave us the names. Both were on our list, but the one forgot to tell us they worked at Krogers,” Sproul texted. He added his office expects to be busy with tests and interviews of people who had contact with the infected people.

Prior to this spike in cases, new reports had slowed with only a handful of positive people, and none at all on two days. Sproul had expressed concern that residents might relax their protective measures too soon, and popular travel destinations have had an upswing of COVID cases.

Due to the new spike in caes, Bellaire, Shadyside, St. Clairsville-Richland, Martins Ferry City School District and Buckeye Local school districts have all halted their sports activities, although Shadyside School District plans to re-start Monday. The state’s ban on contact sports was lifted this past Monday.

In the early months of the pandemic’s arrival in Belmont County, the Belmont Correctional Institute was the chief source of new cases due to the high concentration of inmates and staff and difficulty in practicing social distancing. Nine of the total 22 Belmont County residents who died while infected were inmates. Currently, the facility seems to have cases under control.

More recently, members of the Ohio National Guard began assisting in testing staff and residents of Belmont County’s nursing homes.

Jennifer George, administrator at Continuing Healthcare at Shadyside, said Guard personnel visited last Friday. George said she was impressed with their organization, adding they tested all facility staff in less than two hours. She said 90 staff were tested, with six more to be tested this week.

“We had a very nice experience with the National Guard and the testing,” she said.

“Our staff has done a wonderful job with handling the pandemic,” she said. “We are educating our staff daily and/or weekly with the changes that COVID-19 brings. Residents and families members are looking forward to when they can resume normal visitations. These last couple of months we have done a lot of facetime visits and window visits to let the residents visit with their families.”


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