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Slight decline in COVID cases

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County has some good news about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic: No new cases were reported Tueday.

That marks the first break in a long string of days in which case numbers were growing. In fact, Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said case numbers were revised to show that the total number of positive test results was actually lower than believed on Monday.

At the beginning of the week, Sproul reported a total of 600 cases with 536 recoveries, 37 people actively sick but at home, five hospitalized and 22 dead.

Moreover, Sproul said three of the cases on the county’s books Monday were officially assigned to other counties due to issues with the individuals’ residency.

Sproul also said the number of people hospitalized may have increased from five to six recently.

“We’re trying to confirm that. I haven’t got the final confirmation,” Sproul said. “We’re still trying to get all the paperwork.”

Sproul said he hopes the public has taken to heart practices of social distancing, sanitation and careful choices in travel. He said travel continues to be the highest risk behavior for bringing the virus into Belmont County.

However, Sproul added that the coming days will likely yield more information.

“We’ve also been told by Wheeling Hospital they’ve had a bunch of people going in for testing over the last couple of days. I don’t know if that’s based upon deaths they’ve had over in Wheeling, but I know Wheeling Hospital said their testing has been greatly increased,” he said.

Sproul said so far there is no evidence of excessive numbers of new cases resulting from social activities held during the recent July 4 holiday.

“We haven’t seen much,” he said. “Most all of ours have been contacts and travel. Hopefully that stays the same.”

Sproul awaits word from the Ohio National Guard, which is assisting in testing a second area nursing home. Continuing Healthcare of Shadyside was already tested with National Guard help. Sproul has said the Guard could provide information this week.

“Their testing either hasn’t come back yet, or they haven’t had any positives,” Sproul said.

Sproul’s office has two employees paid with state grant funding and dedicated totally to contact tracing people who might have interacted with infected individuals.

Health department personnel will also continue talks with Belmont County’s school districts about options in reopening for fall while keeping to state guidelines. Sproul also continues to consult for events like St. Clairsville’s summer concerts every Tuesday, and the upcoming Belmont County Fair in September.

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