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Harrison reports five more COVID-19 deaths

Cases just recently confirmed

CADIZ — Harrison County recently reported an increase in its COVID-19 related deaths bringing the county’s total deaths to 24.

On Tuesday, the Harrison County Health Department reported an additional five deaths. Garen Rhome, administrator of the county’s health department, said the sudden reported increase is due to a change in how the department reports the cases.

The newly reported deaths are actually from the end of last year, but were just recently confirmed COVID-19 related deaths through the individuals’ death certificates.

Due to the health department’s lack of “timely” access to the death certificates, it was only recently able to add the five deaths to the county’s total.

“In the interest of being accurate with our cases, hospitalizations, and in this case, deaths reported — we have always waited until we could confirm a cause of death or contributing factor before reporting it. This confirmation is now being completed by the Ohio Department of Health and reported on the state’s coronavirus dashboard,” he said.

The Ohio Department of Health recently changed the method for reporting COVID-19 related deaths by using one system as opposed to pulling data from two systems. The new system pulls data directly from the Electronic Death Registration System. Rhome said the health department adjusted its local death total to coincide with the ODH reporting.

“What that meant for us, is that we had five individuals that we had not yet confirmed. … Our mortality number increased by five, moving us from 19 to 24 (COVID-19 related deaths). Those were five individuals that we were waiting for confirmation on that ODH has essentially confirmed for us,” he said.

Rhome said the county has always used a similar method of waiting for death certificate confirmation prior to adding and reporting a death to its total numbers. It is a precise reporting method, he said.

The county’s most recent confirmed COVID-19 related death occurred in early February, Rhome said.

“We have not seen any new COVID related deaths since Feb. 7. These five individuals are going back to late fall and early winter, the last month or so of 2020, when we saw a large increase in cases and hospitalizations. Sometimes it takes a month or so before we have a confirmable death certificate,” he said.

The county’s cases count continues to decline along with its occurrence rate, Rhome said. In the past two weeks there have been 19 new cases, leaving the county to remain in the red category on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System for now. However, once the county reports fewer than 15 cases in the two week period, it may move to a lower alert level, Rhome said.

“If we continue this current trend that we’re on, we could potentially see this high incidence rate come down which would then bring the public health alert down from level three to level two,” he said. “If we continue the mitigation efforts, we should see the potential to move down a level relatively soon.”

Although Harrison County’s numbers are declining, Jefferson County, a neighboring county, is ranked first in occurrence rate.

“The virus does not care about county borders, so we still encourage people to continue to do what we know is working — the mitigation efforts,” he said.

As of Wednesday, the county has a total of 1,019 confirmed cases, 977 recoveries and 24 deaths. There are currently 18 active cases in the county.

The health department is continuing its vaccination efforts and plans to inoculate hundreds of individuals Friday including approximately 140 second doses and around 200 first doses. The first doses will include individuals aged 65 and older, and those with specific medical conditions. Additionally, more than 140 Harrison Hills City School District staff members will receive their second dose of the vaccine.

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