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COVID infections pass 100 in Belmont County

File photo Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reviews the progress of COVID-19 cases in Belmont County. On Monday he reported Belmont County has more than 100 people actively infected with the virus, and total cases since March are nearing 1,000.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The number of Belmont County residents who are isolated and actively infected with the coronavirus passed 100 Monday, with Belmont Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reporting 104 cases.

Sproul reported a total of 865 positive cases since March, when the first two cases of the COVID-19 pandemic were found in Belmont County. Since then there have been 730 recoveries.

Sproul said six people remain hospitalized with the virus. Twenty-five residents have died after contracting the virus, including nine inmates at the Belmont Correctional Institution west of St. Clairsville. The prison was briefly designated a “hot spot” of cases by state officials due to the high inmate population of about 2,500 and difficulty in social distancing.

After the county experienced a period of fewer new cases in late summer, the number of infections has been climbing statewide in recent weeks.

“We have seen the similar rise that most of the Midwest has seen,” Sproul said in a text message Monday.

Last week, Belmont County’s risk status was raised to Level 2, or orange status, on the state’s Public Health Advisory System. It had retained a Level 1, or yellow, status through most of the pandemic, despite factors such as major highways that bring people to the area. Some surrounding counties, including Noble and Guernsey, have been designated Level 3, or red.

Nearby Jefferson County is also listed as orange, while Harrison and Monroe counties remain yellow. So far, no counties in the state have been labeled Level 4, or purple, which is the most serious alert level.

During summer, many new cases and spikes of new cases were traced to travelers vacationing outside the region. Sproul has said, though, that the current increases are the result of “community spread” and are occurring across the county.

One of the challenges faced by Sproul’s office has been a lack of cooperation when trying to trace those who might have come into contact with infected people.

“Contacts are continuing to be very limited,” he said.

A casual attitude toward masks and other precautions and instances of private gatherings have also been reported.

Belmont County’s school districts reopened under strict precautions and although there have been cases in the Martins Ferry, Union Local, Shadyside, Bellaire and St. Clairsville-Richland City school districts, no spread within the schools has been reported so far.

Last week, the first COVID-19 cases were identified among staff and an inmate at the Belmont County Jail. Courts and jail staff continue to exercise precautions.

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