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COVID cases slowing in Belmont County

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reported a slower increase of positive coronavirus cases Wednesday, but reminds the public to exercise caution.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul had some good news for the board of commissioners Wednesday during his weekly update on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

He said since Tuesday, numbers have increased by only one, for a total of 642 positive cases and 585 recoveries, with 32 active cases.

Sproul gave some additional good news, saying only two people are hospitalized with the virus, when four had been hospitalized earlier this week.

A total of 23 people have died with the virus, including nine inmates at the Belmont Correctional Institution west of St. Clairsville.

“So far, we’re doing better, but we want to keep up the same pattern,” Sproul said.

He said the state is also preparing for the reopening of child-care facilities.

“School’s going back into session. They can either stay at their smaller numbers and (the state) will give them a financial subsidy because they’re losing money because they’re not at their full standards, or they can go back to their original numbers. That’s going to be up to each individual daycare facility,” Sproul said.

He also continues to meet with school district leaders via Zoom as they fine-tune plans to reopen. He will be meeting with nurses to review mask-wearing and checking for symptoms. He will also be speaking with cafeteria workers.

“Give an idea of what to expect as best we can with the upcoming school year,” Sproul said. “It’s a very fluid and difficult time.”

He said many districts are purchasing their own masks with district logos.

In answer to questions from the commissioners, Sproul said there has been no indication the summer weather would stymie the virus.

“It’s a novel virus, we’re learning something new every day,” Sproul said.

Commissioner Jerry Echemann voiced the hope that people do what they can to improve their physical condition while they are well in order to reduce symptoms and help recovery should they contract the virus.

On Tuesday, regulations from the state curtailed two anticipated events that many have been working toward and hoping to hold this fall. The Belmont County Junior Fair will proceed, but the hope of having a full fair was halted by state mandate.

“The full fair will not happen anywhere across the state after July 31. They just had too many issues at other counties that had full fairs. The people just did it like it was 2018. We still have the virus and we’re getting outbreaks from those areas, and with the numbers spiking, he couldn’t see continuing it on,” Sproul said. “They’re not taking a financial hit because he did put out $50,000 per fair.”

The possibility of further mandates and other circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic prompted the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival committee to cancel the annual event.

“I’m sad to hear it, but their hands were tied,” Sproul said. “There’s not much they can do. … I hate to see it, but we’re seeing (COVID spikes) around the state. If they would just have a little bit more self-control we could open these things back up, but it just seems when something happens they flood in and overwhelm the system.”

One event that is still ongoing is the summer concert series at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at St. Clairsville’s amphitheatre.

“St. Clairsville’s having their music events. They’re social distancing. We haven’t heard one complaint about what’s going on there. They’re doing it right and it’s not been an issue,” Sproul said. “It can be done.”

He also urged the public to cooperate with the health department in contact tracing.

“People are still being very quiet about their contacts,” Sproul said. “They’re telling us ‘we’re not sure where we got it from,’ and we’re asking who their contacts are and they’re not willing to tell us, because they know they’re contacts will have to be quarantined for 14 days. … Are they out there positive, spreading?”

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