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Harrison County seeing a spike in cases

CADIZ — Harrison County has seen a significant rise in COVID-19 cases recently with more than 120 new positive cases reported in the last week.

Garen Rhome, administrator of the Harrison County Health Department, said the department has reported double-digit case numbers daily. He said in the last seven days there have been 124 new cases with 35 percent of those being confirmed among minors. Though there is a high number of residents ages 17 and under who have tested positive for the virus, Rhome cautions that people not to assume they are school-aged.

“There are cases that are younger than school age. We’ve had cases in the last week that are 2 years old,” he said.

Rhome said the positive cases among minors does not necessarily indicate spread in the classroom.

“People get together on weekends. People get together in the evenings. So that percentage of cases is not a disparaging look at what’s happening in our school system. That’s just an example of the delta variant moving through the unvaccinated population. The majority of minors, 11 and under, are not even eligible for a vaccine. So that is a highly unvaccinated population and is indicative of the speed and velocity in which the delta variant can move through people who are mostly not eligible for a vaccine, age wise,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Harrison Hills City School District updated its guidelines to mandate masks among faculty and students due to a rise in cases in the county. The mask mandate is only temporary and will be reevaluated Sept. 30, according to school officials.

The county is currently ranked No. 14 in the state for occurance rate based on its number of current cases and population size of 15,040. Over the last two weeks, the county has reported 178 positive cases, bringing its case rate to 1,183.5 cases per 100,000 population. Rhome said 100 cases per 100,000 is considered a high transmission rate, and Harrison’s rate is nearly double that.

Monroe County is ranked No. 6, having 199 cases with a population of 13,654; Belmont County is ranked No. 23, having 695 cases with a population of 67,006; and Jefferson County is ranked No. 27 with 634 cases and a population of 65,325.

Rhome said the spread is “out of control.”

He said the amount of people seeking tests has skyrocketed and is the highest his department has ever seen. Over the last few weeks, more than 400 tests were administered each week in the county with nearly 25 percent of tests coming back positive. He said the county previously had around 8 percent of tests come back positive.

Rhome said the health department, along with everyone in the health community, is “sounding the alarm” to residents that they must act now to slow the spread and stop the hospital surge.

“We need people to react and follow the mitigation efforts, and please get vaccinated if you’re age eligible. … The majority of hospitalizations and ICU hospitalization and ventilator hospitalizations and unfortunately deaths are still among the unvaccinated,” he said.

Rhome said 10-15 percent of the county’s positive cases are among the vaccinated; however, those individuals typically present with minor or lesser symptoms. He said the Ohio Department of Health does not track these breakthrough cases unless a vaccinated person with a positive test presents severe symptoms, is hospitalized or dies.

“If someone is vaccinated we know that they can still get sick, but the vast majority of breakthrough cases don’t require hospitalization or medical intervention at all. They just recover quicker and are less sick than their unvaccinated counterparts,” he said. “The vaccines are behaving the way we expect them to and are providing protection the way we expect them to.”

Rhome said getting vaccinated is the number one thing a person can do for themself, their loved ones and the community.

There have been a total of 1,487 reported COVID-19 cases in the county since the pandemic, 1,315 recoveries, 26 deaths and 146 active cases.The health department is holding vaccine clinics from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Thursday at the health department in Cadiz.

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