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COVID-19 cases stall in Belmont County

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Health Director Robert Sproul reported no change in COVID-19 coronavirus numbers Wednesday when he gave his weekly report to the Belmont County commissioners, with a total of 747 positive and 676 recoveries with 41 people isolated.

“That’s the same number for the past few days, which is a very, very good pattern,” he said.

He added results are in for the second of three pop-up coronavirus testing sites. Of the 86 people tested in Bellaire, the county had two positives, but they were re-tests, so the numbers remain unchanged.

The final testing site will be operating from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday at Ohio University Eastern.

“We should get results back very quickly,” Sproul said.

“The kids are staying with it because they want to be back in school. They want to see their friends. They don’t want to be home anymore, so they have been pretty compliant,” Sproul said.

Leona Middle School in Shadyside School District reported a student tested positive last week, and 18 people have been quarantined, but the school’s protective measures allowed them to quickly determine possible contacts and for the school to remain open holding classes. The 18 quarantined people are also doing well.

“So far the other contacts have not been symptomatic,” Sproul said.

Another new case has been reported in St. Mary Central School, but Sproul said this was a student who had already been quarantined due to being in contact with a positive and had not attended school for more than a week.

“So the school was affected,” Sproul said. “It really had zero effect on the school, because the kid was not there. The quarantine worked. … I know quarantine’s not popular. … Luckily we did quarantine them, because otherwise St. Mary in Martins Ferry would have to quarantine how many kids?”

Sproul said he understands the public’s frustration and the health department is working to minimize quarantine and allow education and sports to continue.

Flu season is upcoming and Sproul said mixing of flu and coronavirus symptoms has been a concern, but the protective measures and sanitary practices in place could also mean a reduced flu season.

“The flu shot’s out, so people are getting their flu shot, which is good, and all the same things they do for the COVID works for the flu,” he said.

He is also awaiting new state mandates relating to food service and bar hours.

“Bars have to close at 10 p.m. They’re thinking about tweaking that,” Sproul said.

Sproul also commented on a new initiative by the state to assess COVID infection in an area by examining wastewater.

“They are monitoring sanitary sewers for prevalence of the virus, and then when they start to see an uptick in the virus they are able to go into those communities and start doing more testing,” he said. “We haven’t looked at that here. It’s been more the larger municipalities like Columbus, Cleveland, it seems to be the bigger cities. … It’s a new technology, so we’ll see what comes out and what they find.”

In answer to questions from Commissioner Jerry Echemann, Sproul said there is no indication when the pandemic will end, but numbers continue to trend downward.

There are five people hospitalized and there have been 25 deaths in the county, including nine inmates at Belmont Correctional Institution.

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