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Health workers fear Thanksgiving could mean more COVID

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul had news of more COVID-19 cases when he updated the Belmont County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

The commissioners met Tuesday instead of during their normal Wednesday meeting due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

There have been a total of 1,952 coronavirus cases in Belmont County since the pandemic’s onset, with 944 people with active cases currently in isolation at home. Sproul said there have been 946 recoveries, 30 people are hospitalized and there have so far been 32 resident deaths associated with the virus.

Sproul commented on the fluctuating numbers, which include spikes in both recoveries and new cases.

“We had 92 cases in a 24-hour period (Monday),” Sproul said. “There was some good news on our isolated numbers. We had a large number of isolated recovered.”

Hospital capacity has been an ongoing point of concern for the state. While Sproul noted Barnesville Hospital is stable, the availability of hospital equipment statewide is troubling.

“Resources are stretched thin all across the state,” Sproul said. “We’re asking people to do the right thing, especially going into the holiday season.”

Sproul also addressed the free testing conducted last Wednesday at Ohio University Eastern campus, in conjunction with the Ohio National Guard. More than 200 people were tested and they are being contacted as results come in.

“The labs are very, very backed up,” Sproul said. “It’s delayed getting us results back.”

“Also we’re making phone calls to a lot of people when we get results. Sometimes they’re not answering. Sometimes they put the wrong number down, so we’re sending a letter,” Sproul said. “Letting them know … they were tested positive and they need to quarantine.”

In answer to questions from the commissioners, Sproul said his office is seeing more instances of spread among families as people remain at home.

“At this rate, we’ll be at 2,000 by the end of the day,” Commissioner Jerry Echemann said.

“At the rate we’re going, yes,” Sproul said.

Commissioner J.P. Dutton also commented on the stress small business owners are under during the pandemic, particularly after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s order increasing penalties for businesses that fail to enforce masking orders among customers.

In answer to a question from Echemann about the susceptibility of different people to the virus’ effects, Sproul said it is impossible to predict how badly the virus would impact a given patient.

“There’s no rhyme or reason. It’s not affecting everybody the same way, that’s the problem,” Sproul said.

DeWine again addressed the public Tuesday, asking for compliance with mask and social distancing mandates. He said mask compliance appears to be high across the state. He also said the first batches of COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in the Buckeye State on Dec. 15.

DeWine emphasized that the surest method of avoiding spread of the virus is to reduce contacts among people. He added that many colleges across the state will not be continuing in-person classes after Thanksgiving.

DeWine’s Tuesday press conference also included several health care workers who have experienced coronavirus firsthand. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer with the Ohio Department of Health, said the current surge in new COVID-19 cases may be a result of the recent Halloween holiday and speculated that Thanksgiving may result in yet more cases in the coming weeks.

All of Belmont County’s schools are now operating by remote learning or a hybrid of remote learning and in-person with the exception of the Bridgeport School District, which is still holding all classes in person.

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