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Feeling the heat

Sproul warns against letting guard down during summer fun

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Only time will tell how well residents of Belmont County guarded against spreading th new coronavirus over the July 4 holiday weekend, Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said.

The health department is reported more new COVID-19 cases Monday, with a total of 577 positive test results and 515 recoveries, compared to 571 diagnoses as of Sunday.

Sproul voiced hope that residents will continue to take precautions during social gatherings, but he said there is no way to know how many people might have been infected during Independence Day celebrations.

An earlier student trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and other vacations brought several cases back home, Sproul’s department has been interviewing the travelers and tracing their contacts, warning them to self-quarantine. Some of those cases were reported in area businesses, which were then sanitized.

“We had some (new cases) from the trips and we had some from social gatherings within the county,” he said, adding the people who went on the trips have all been tested by now.

“It’s now the contacts of the ones we’ve seen.”

Sproul had voiced concern about another spike during a two-week lull in new cases, adding he feared people might relax their precautions. But he said it appears the response to this latest increase curtailed the spread.

“It’s not quite as bad. That’s the good part about it. It hasn’t been as bad as we expected,” he said. “We were kind of nervous there was going to be asymptomatic people moving around. It seems to be others may not have been sick at all.”

Social gatherings for special occasions offer more opportunities for infection, he noted.

“I think they’re being less careful. We’ve seen a lot of social media posts and a lot of events happening that people weren’t social distancing as they should have. We’ll see if that will show up in numbers in the next week or so,” he said.

Since the virus’s arrival in the county in March, 22 individuals who became infected have died. A total of four residents remain hospitalized, down from seven with three recoveries. The dead include nine inmates at Belmont Correctional Institution just west of St. Clairsville, which at one point was deemed a “hot spot.”

Sproul expects more news from the state today, as prohibitions against gatherings of more than 10 will expire.

“I’m sure we’ll hear more information from the governor on tomorrow’s 2 p.m. call, and what we’re doing and how we’re going to do it,” he said.

He commented on West Virginia’s and Pennsylvania’s recent decision to have mandatory masks in all buildings and hopes this will lessen additional cases.

“They’re seeing their numbers start to creep up. They were taking those precautions at this point,” Sproul said.

Sproul will also be busy working with the district schools as they make ready to implement Gov. Mike DeWine’s mandates to reopen.

“He’s coming up with some more guidance getting them prepared in the fall. There’s a lot of work the schools have to do to figure out how they can open and open safely,” Sproul said.

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