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Belmont County COVID-related death count reaches 32

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Two more coronavirus-related deaths were reported Monday by the Belmont County Health Department, and Gov. Mike DeWine and health care workers continue to urge Ohioans to take precautions — particularly during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reported the number of residents who have died after being infected with COVID-19 has increased to 32. The current surge of new cases has included seven new deaths in the past three weeks, after coronavirus-related deaths had remained at 25 for several months. Nine of the earlier deaths were inmates at the Belmont Correctional Institution, which had been deemed a “hot spot” of new infections during the summer spread.

As of Monday, Sproul placed the total number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic’s onset at 1,878, with 889 people isolated at home with active cases of the virus. There have been 928 recoveries and 29 residents are hospitalized with the illness.

Sproul said the two latest patients to die were men in their 70s and 90s. Sproul said one was hospitalized and another was in long-term care. He said the same has been true for most of the new deaths, with many of them being treated at Wheeling Hospital.

The health department is still awaiting results of a round of free testing conducted last Wednesday with the Ohio National Guard at the Ohio University Eastern campus. More than 200 people were tested without leaving their vehicles.

Meanwhile, DeWine continues to focus attention on health care providers and the added burden hospitals may face following the Thanksgiving holiday.

His talk Monday included several hospital personnel such as Robert Wyllie, a doctor with the Cleveland Clinic, who pointed out health care workers are more likely to contract the disease from community spread than at work. DeWine underlined the dangers of inviting guests to a holiday gathering who may be unknowingly infected with the virus.

Others speculated on the future availability of a vaccine, noting that health care providers will be given priority.

They also discussed possible shortages of medical equipment and resources.

Area schools continue to operate on a remote or hybrid remote and in-person schedule through Thanksgiving. Some are extending those measures beyond the holiday. The lone exception is the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District, which is still conducting fully in-person learning.

The COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed or suspended many beloved and anticipated holiday events in the area. The latest casualty is the Martins Ferry Christmas parade, which officials canceled on Monday.

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