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Voting, schools continue in pandemic

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Early voting continues with COVID-19 precautions in place at the Belmont County Board of Elections office, St. Clairsville. Efforts will be made to allow quarantined people to cast their ballots while keeping everyone safe.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County’s coronavirus cases continue to increase, with 135 active infections reported Thursday and the total number of cases since the pandemic’s onset close to 1,000.

However, school districts continue to operate and residents are being assured that the need to quarantine will not prevent them from casting their ballots in the general election Tuesday.

Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul said via text message late Thursday that 135 residents were isolated or hospitalized with active cases of the virus, but he added that 14 more people have recovered. One of the hospitalized individuals recently recovered, bringing the number of hospitalized patients from seven to six.

Sproul has said hospitalizations continue to be a statewide concern after a recent spike of more than 3,500 new cases.

“If we keep going at this rate, the hospitals could be in trouble,” Sproul texted Thursday.

Since March, there have been 904 positive cases with 744 recoveries. Twenty-five residents have died after being infected with the virus, including nine inmates at Belmont Correctional Institution.

During his Wednesday report to the Belmont County Board of Commissioners, Sproul said he continues to work with local school districts to address positive findings within the schools on a case-by-case basis.

“We work with each individual school district,” he said. “If Barnesville’s having a problem, why should Bellaire be penalized? We’re trying to be more case-by-case basis with the county.”

Belmont County’s school districts reopened after a summer of planning and precautions. So far, positive cases have been found among students or staff in the Bellaire, Union Local, Martins Ferry, Shadyside and St. Clairsville-Richland City school districts.

“We try to work more closely with them. We’ve been trying to keep things open, keep things moving,” Sproul said, adding that sports have also continued. “We’ve had to quarantine a few athletes, but again it didn’t take out the entire program.”

In addition, Sproul said the board of elections office has an outdoor drop box at its location for early voting, and precautions can be taken for infected people who wish to cast their ballots.

“If someone happened to be quarantined by us, they could still go vote. We’re not taking away that, and the election board’s doing everything they can to make that happen,” Sproul said.

The board of elections office can be reached at 740-526-0188 and is located at 52180 National Road, St. Clairsville.

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