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Health Department: Bigger building needed in county

Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul reports Monday to the health board that COVID-19 vaccinations will begin at Belmont College this week.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Health Department board is anticipating vaccinating college students this week against the COVID-19 pandemic, and will approach the county commissioners about the possibility of a new and bigger headquarters in the future.

Board member Joel Braido suggested the board might speak with the Belmont County Board of Commissioners in the near future about expanding the headquarters.

As usual since the pandemic reached its peak, the health board met in the command center of the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency where social distancing guidelines of about six feet between people could be maintained.

Belmont County Health Commissioner George Cholak agreed.

“Our old building is inadequate for what they expect us to do and the staff that we have,” he said. “I think they need a new building. A complete new building.”

Cholak suggested a new building could be raised on property behind the current headquarters at 68501 Bannock Uniontown Road, St. Clairsville, and that building could be taken down to make parking spaces.

“They only have about three or four parking spaces there,” he said.

“We want to express our concerns about our building,” Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul said, adding the board had spoken to the commissioners before. “It’s kind of hard to serve that many people in that small a location. Our storage is very, very limited, so trying to have enough (personal protective equipment) for the county, so it’s packed us in there kind of tight.”

Sproul said the building is close to 50 years old and in need of repairs. He said he will consult with the commissioners about the square footage needed.

“It’s not going to be a huge, huge building, but we need more space than what we have, and we’re going to sit down and determine the optimum amount,” he said.

Cholak also commented on Gov. Mike DeWine’s visit to Steubenville Monday, adding he has talked to the governor’s office and hopes DeWine will come to observe Belmont County’s operations.

“I want him to come, when we have a clinic, to see how it’s operating and see how much we’re doing,” Cholak said.

Sproul also noted the health department will hold its first vaccination clinic at Belmont College Tuesday to offer doses to anyone who wants one. As of Monday, the department was determining how many vaccines would be needed in the clinic.

“We’ve reached out to them to get us a list of people,” Sproul said. “It’s going to be available for all the staff and all the students.”

They will be using the Moderna version of the vaccine. Currently, the only version cleared for people younger than 18 is the Pfizer BioNTech version.

“If we move to the high schools, until we get the Pjizer it’s going to be tough to do very many people within the schools,” Sproul said.

In Belmont County, Sproul said there have been 5,819 total cases since the pandemic began and 303 residents in isolation with active cases or hospitalized. He said 5,405 people have recovered and 111 people have died after contracting the virus, with the latest, a man in his 50s, reported Monday.

The next health board meeting will be noon May 10.

To register or learn more about vaccinations, visit the health department website at belmontcountyhealth.com or gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.

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