Belmont marks 29th death from COVID-19

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County marked its 29th coronavirus-related death Wednesday.

Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul reported total number of people in isolation with active cases has increased to 769 people.

There have been 1,649 positive cases in the county since the pandemic’s onset, with 835 recoveries. Sixteen people are now hospitalized.

“Numbers are still going up, unfortunately,” Sproul said.

Sproul said the 29th person to die after being infected was a man in his 90s.

There were three deaths last week after a break of several months without coronavirus-related deaths, and the number hovering at 25. This includes nine inmates at the Belmont Correctional Institution.

Sproul was unable to attend the commissioners meeting Wednesday to give his weekly update, since he was on-site at Ohio University Eastern while the Ohio National Guard worked in conjunction with the health department to provide free testing. Tents were set up at the parking lot and testers took samples from drivers. Sproul said at the end of the day, 226 tests were given. Results are expected by Friday.

Currently, all of the school districts except one are on either remote learning or a model of hybrid in-person and remote learning. Bellaire School District has announced remote learning this week, lasting until Dec. 4.

Union Local School District is operating by remote until Nov. 24. Extracurricular activities are postponed until Nov. 28 for reassessment.

Bridgeport School District had plans to resume full-time learning this week. Shadyside School District will hold remote learning until after Thanksgiving with the hope of returning to in-person classes the week of Nov. 30.

Barnesville Exempted School District is holding a hybrid model, while Martins Ferry City School District plans to reopen to in-person learning Nov. 30. St. Clairsville-Richland City School District also hopes to resume classes after Thanksgiving.

St. Mary’s in St. Clairsville intended to resume in-person learning this week. East Richland Christian School has also been holding classes online.

“If the kids are symptomatic, we’re telling them not to come to school,” Sproul said.

Bridgeport is the only school to be entirely in-person.

“So far, they’ve been able to maintain that. Their numbers have been low, they haven’t lost any staff,” Sproul said.

“We’re doing good,” Bridgeport Superintendent Brent Ripley said. “We’re still five days a week. … We have two high schoolers that…tested positive.”

“We do have some kids quarantined through contact tracing,” Ripley said. “We feel our school is a safe place and we do a great job of meeting the needs of every kid.”

“If we need to go hybrid or remote, we’re ready to go,” Ripley said.

He commended the students and families for being attentive to symptoms and staying home when symptomatic, as well as maintaining sanitary practices and social distancing. Staff and custodians were also credited for their attention to detail.

“Everyone’s pitching in,” he said. “We’re not as large a school as everyone else, so we just haven’t had the caseload.”

On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to make an announcement whether bars, fitness centers and other locations are to be closed. The decision will depend on rising COVID-19 cases.

Recently, DeWine has announced a 21-day curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to begin today. Stricter penalties are also being imposed on retailers who do not enforce masking mandates on customers. Penalties begin at a written warning, followed by a shut-down of up to 24 hours.

“We’ve warned a few. We haven’t shut any down. We’re trying to work with them to get the compliance. That’s what we want,” Sproul said. “They understand they don’t want shut down, and the public needs to understand we don’t want to shut them down either, but if we can’t control that spread the governor’s going to go that route.”


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