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COVID-19 cases climb in Harrison County

Infection spreading more slowly in rest of region

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — While coronavirus cases seem to be under control in Belmont County, the number of people involved in an outbreak at a Harrison County nursing facility continues to grow.

The Harrison County Health Department announced Monday afternoon that it had been notified of 13 new cases at a nursing facility. The department said the new cases include nine facility residents and four staff members, two of whom live outside the county.

The total number of people testing positive in the outbreak, which was announced last week at the Meadows of Cadiz, has now reached 30 — 19 facility residents and 11 staff members. Seven of those staffers live in Harrison County, while the other four reside in other counties. All 19 infected residents are from the same unit/wing of the facility, the department noted.

“Our nurses and contact tracers have identified the close contacts of the positive staff members. Those close contacts are in public health quarantine protocols,” the department announced on social media.

As a result of the cluster of cases, Harrison County shifted from yellow to orange status on the color-coded Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System, indicating increased exposure and spread risk in the county. Yellow is the least serious designation on the system, which progresses to orange, then red and finally purple. Counties that are designated orange are advised to “exercise high degree of caution.”

Belmont County, however, remains in the yellow category, and new cases appear to be under control according to Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul during his report to that county health board Monday.

Sproul said 727 Belmont County residents have tested positive since the pandemic began; 657 of those have recovered and 40 people have active cases of the virus and are in quarantine at home. Sproul said five people remain hospitalized and 25 people have died while infected with the coronavirus in Belmont County, including nine inmates at Belmont Correctional Institution.

Sproul said Belmont County has picked up six cases since Friday. He said the newly reopened schools do not seem to be a source of new cases, and the Belmont County Junior Fair held last week had considerably fewer people than would have been present during a full fair.

“Two of the new ones actually went to a wedding in New Jersey,” Sproul said. “The other ones are more of a community spread.”

He said get-togethers such as college parties and private gatherings have been a source of coronavirus spikes in other areas.

“We’re seeing the colleges exploding, and it’s all little house parties on campus,” Sproul said. “We’ve not had any in Belmont. Ours have been good so far.”

Sproul added that arrangements have been finalized with the National Church Residences and the Ohio National Guard to hold pop-up testing beginning this coming weekend. Testing will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“This Saturday it’s going to be at Barnesville (Memorial) Park. Next Saturday will be in Bellaire across from the high school, and Oct. 3 we’re going to be at (Ohio University Eastern) at their parking lot,” Sproul said. “You don’t have to have a doctor’s slip. You don’t have to have insurance. Anybody who wants to be tested can be tested.”

Sproul said results should be available in one to two days.

“They’ll take it directly … to the lab. There’s certain labs they work with, so they basically get to the front of the line,” Sproul said. “Any positives get back to us, and we have to contact trace and get everything in the system before next Saturday when we have to go out and do it again.”

Community spread also is occurring in Jefferson and Monroe counties, but both remain under the yellow category with Belmont.

As the pandemic continues to spread, the Harrison County Health Department reminds area residents to take these steps to help protect themselves and others:

– Hand hygiene – was frequently with soap and use sanitizer often;

– Clean and disinfect shared surfaces often;

– Practice physical (social) distancing of 6 or more feet — more is better;

– Wear face coverings when in public and around anyone other than your normal household members;

– Don’t leave home if you’re feeling sick, except to seek medical care; and

– Make smart, safe choices about where you go for work and leisure. Avoid people, places and events that might contribute to the spread of COVID-19 among your family and friends.

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