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Belmont County COVID cases up 33 from last week

Bellaire High student tests positive

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Bellaire High School will be open today after a student tested positive for the coronavirus. The student had been isolated prior to this week, according to school and health board officials.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County’s “yellow” status indicating relatively low risk of COVID-19 transmission could change today, with more than 30 new cases reported within the past week by Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul.

“With that uptick in numbers, there’s a possibility we could move … when they change the map for the county,” he said.

THe Ohio Public Health Advisory System includes a color-coded map that designates counties yellow, orange, red or purple to indicate the prevalence of COVID-19 there. It is updated each Thursday. For the past week, Belmont, Harrison and Monroe counties all have been yellow, the lowest risk level, while Jefferson County has been orange, or Level 2. All local counties have reported increases in cases in the past week.Only seven counties of the 88 across the state remained yellow, with all others orange or red.

Meanwhile, a Bellaire High School student has tested positive for the virus, but because that individual was isolated early, in-person classes will continue today.

On Wednesday, Sproul gave his weekly update to the Belmont County Board of Commissioners. He reported another increase with three more positive test results by the end of the day, bringing Belmont County’s total coronavirus cases up to 827 since March, with 721 recoveries. There are 74 people in quarantine at home with active cases of the virus. Sproul said 25 residents have died after being infected with the virus, including nine inmates at Belmont Correctional Institution.

An additional person has now been hospitalized, bringing total hospitalizations to seven. Sproul said the most recent is a man in his 60s.

He said these figures mark an increase of more than 30 new cases since last week.

“Because on Oct. 15 we had 791 positives, and now we’re at 824,” Sproul said. “It’s pretty much all around the county. From homes to facilities.”

He said one factor that may be promoting community spread is a lack of adequate cooperation in contact tracing. Sproul said 68 people are quarantined as possible contacts of positive patients.

“We have 72 isolated (positives) and 68 quarantined. We’re not getting many contacts of these positives. We’re not sure if people aren’t just telling us who they’re around … because a lot of these positives are telling us they don’t know where they got the positive from.”

The first positive cases at the Belmont County Jail were confirmed this week among staff and one inmate. Sproul also said private mass gatherings have been reported. He urges the public to take precautions and be aware of the spread in Belmont County.

“We’ve been fortunate to have such a low incident rate for a really long time,” Commissioner J.P. Dutton said, asking what it would mean for residents if Belmont County was designated “orange.”

Sproul said it would chiefly mean more educational measures.

“We’ve had very good success with keeping schools open and keeping sports happening and things moving forward, and we want to keep it that way,” he said.

As flu season approaches, Sproul asks anyone who begins to feel symptoms to consult their physician.

Bellaire High School released a statement notifying parents and students that one student tested positive. Sproul confirmed this but said via text that the student had been out of school prior to the result and that the health department has reached out to 17 additional contacts of that individual.

Bellaire Local School District Superintendent Darren Jenkins elaborated, adding that classes will continue as normal.

“We do not anticipate this case affecting school operation. We believe that this case is an isolated incident. There is some reason to believe that this person contracted the virus through family, and we are working with the Belmont County Health Department on social tracing even as we speak,” he said, adding there is no reason to believe any staff would be involved at this point.

“The student has not been in the building this week. They were quarantined along with other family members on Sunday,” he added.

Jenkins said about 400 students attend the high school, with about 30 opting to learn online. He said morale has been good.

“Districtwide, we have seen movement of students come back, honestly to in-person instruction,” he said. “Our staff and students were happy to come back to school in August.”

Union Local School District recently reported its second case since the start of the pandemic, this one involving a staff member at the high school. Schools in Martins Ferry, Shadyside and St. Clairsville have also experienced isolated infections.

The Harrison County Health Department also provided its weekly update regarding the state of the coronavirus in the county Wednesday. The county has a total of 79 confirmed cases, 68 recoveries and four deaths, as of Wednesday.

Garen Rhome, administrator of the county health department, met with the Harrison County Board of Commissioners during its regular scheduled meeting, noting the county announced its fourth virus related death Tuesday. The individual was a 65-year-old county resident and was one of the county’s “longterm” hospitalized cases.

“We announced the unfortunate death of one of our residents who had been diagnosed COVID-19 positive and of course this person had some other ailments as well, but COVID-19 did not help. This is one of our longtime active cases that we have been monitoring for quite some time,” he said.

The county has seen an increase of seven coronavirus cases in the past week, he said. As of Wednesday, the county has a total of seven active cases.

Rhome said some of the county’s cases presented with symptoms, while others did not.

“One of the (active) cases was a prescreening for a surgery or some sort of medical procedure that required a pre screening, so in that case that person did not suspect or feel symptomatic. Of course, the other six (active cases), it varies. Some people feel sick and they go get tested, some people it’s detected in a pre screening procedure so it does vary,” he said.

Rhome asked Commissioners Paul Coffland, Dale Norris and Don Bethel to join the health department in the effort to encourage others to follow mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the virus.

“So please continue to urge your constituents, your friends and your family to wear a mask, social distance when possible and be smart, make good choices. If you know a place is going to put you at higher risk (of contracting the virus) — a party, a get-together — make the decision not to go there,” he said.

Staff Writer Carri Graham contributed to this report.

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