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Unofficial COVID-19 death count nearing 20 in Belmont County

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — More deaths connected to the COVID-19 pandemic were reported by the Belmont County Health Department on Monday, bringing the unofficial total to 17.

At the end of the day, though, the official state count was 13 deaths.

Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reported two additional deaths occurred over the weekend. He said the latest two fatalities were both men, in their 60s and 70s. He said one of those residents was living in a nursing home and one in a group home.

The county’s tally had stood at 15 on Friday.

However, the official count listed by the satte remains at 13. Three recent deaths of inmates at the Belmont Correctional Institution who were transported to facilities at Ohio State University in Columbus and died there, have not been officially counted. Neither has one of the most recent two deaths, Sproul said.

In addition, at the end of the day coronavirus.ohio.net reported a total of eight inmate deaths at BeCI, when it previously had listed five deaths.

Sproul said he would contact the state to determine why his office was not notified. He said he is still working to confirm the previous three deaths.

Sproul said a total of 461 positive cases have been identified since the start of the outbreak with 330 recoveries. Four people are hospitalized.

“We’ve got a bunch of tests back, but they’ve been negative,” he said.

The prison, located west of St. Clairsville and housing nearly 2,500 inmates, has been designated a “hot spot” of infection due to the high number of positive inmate cases and staff infections. The Ohio State Highway Patrol and Ohio National Guard have been dispatched to assist.

There are 86 active inmate cases listed at the prison, with 89 recoveries and six with pending test results. There are 96 total positive staff members with 65 recoveries.

Nursing homes are another focus of state attention, with the National Guard to assist in testing staff members who may bring the virus in and expose the vulnerable population.

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 Wiley Avenue in Barnesville, ResCare Airport Road Homes Individual ICFs in St. Clairsville and Belmont Manor in St. Clairsville.

On Saturday, Walton Retirement Home in Barnesville released a statement reporting some residents have been infected. The staff is working with local and state health authorities.

Sproul added that antibody testing has begun at Ohio Hills Health Services in Barnesville and at Barnesville Hospital. These tests determine whether someone has had the virus and developed antibodies to it.

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