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COVID spreads in Belmont County

File Photo Katie Roach, an ambulatory care assistant at Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, opens up a test packet at the new off-site testing location in Glen Dale. COVID-19 cases are rising across the region.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — More than 20 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Belmont County Tuesday, bringing the number of active infections to 128 — the most at any one time since the virus arrived in March.

However, Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said many of the new positive patients were already quarantined due to contact with previous positive cases.

Since the pandemic’s onset, 883 county residents have tested positive and 730 have recovered. A total of 121 people are isolated at home with active infections. The number of people hospitalized has gone from six to seven this week, and there have been 25 deaths of residents who had been infected with COVID-19, including nine inmates of the Belmont Correctional Institution, located just west of St. Clairsville.

Sproul said there have been larger spikes and daily increases in the past, but those had occurred in confined facilities with large, confined populations, such as nursing facilities. Sproul said the latest new cases are turning up all across the county.

“When the correctional institute and the nursing homes had their issues in the beginning, I think we had a little bigger spike,” he said in a text message Tuesday.

The number of active cases in the county has more than doubled in recent weeks.

As the pandemic continues, Sproul emphasizes the need for effective contact tracing and early quarantine as measures to stop or slow the spread of new cases. He recommends wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing surfaces.

During the summer, the prison had been declared a “hot spot” of coronavirus activity, with the National Guard and Ohio State Highway Patrol called in to assist when numerous prison staff members were infected. Another increase came when a group of vacationing students apparently did not take precautions while at beach destinations outside the state, became infected and brought the virus back with them.

Last week, Belmont County lost its Level 1, or yellow, status in terms of COVID-19 risk level and was designated orange, or Level 2. Many other high-risk areas along major transportation routes or with large population centers have been designated Level 3, or red. Level 4, or purple, designates the highest risk level associated with the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. So far, none of Ohio’s 88 counties has been deemed purple, but only four still retain the yellow designation.

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