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3 more succumb to virus

LISBON — Three additional Columbiana County residents have died after being hospitalized with positive coronavirus cases, bringing the county’s total to five deaths since the first case was confirmed two weeks ago. There are now 28 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county.

The Columbiana County Health Department released Friday that the three deaths were all hospitalized men, who also had underlying health conditions, and their ages were in the range of 53 to 76 years old. The health department is not releasing any additional information about the location where the three residents were from or names of the individuals.

It is not known if FCI-Elkton inmate Margarito Garcia-Fragoso, a 65-year-old man who died on Friday, is included in that number, but he would be included in the 28 confirmed cases countywide.

County Health Commissioner Wes Vins declined on Friday to give further details on any one case, but he did state he has been in contact with the prison about the situation, adding the federal prison has excellent medical control out there. Vins confirmed federal prison cases are included in the county’s numbers.

“We do have some cases associated with the prison we are working on,” Vins said. “I have talked to the warden out there, but what happens out there, it’s not in under our jurisdiction.”

Additionally, Vins said those cases are essentially already isolated from the rest of the community, adding that even those cases transported to the hospital are being isolated from the rest of the community.

“A threat inside the prison does not necessary translate to a threat outside in the community,” Vins said.

The county Health Department is tracking the cases after learning about the positives. Vins said they are contacting the known contacts of those positive cases quickly and people are cooperating in self-quarantining for 14 days.

Statewide, there are 91 deaths from 3,312 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 895 accumulated hospitalizations since the beginning of the disease in the state.

The first Columbiana County case was confirmed on March 20 and the first death reported on March 26. As this has progressed, Vins said the county has been working to streamline its resources. Vins said the hospitals are working hard on determining who to test and treating people, while the county EMA has taken the role of getting the supplies out to those on the front lines. The county received its third shipment from the National Strategic Stockpile.

At this point, Vins said the health department is not even aware of how many tests are still pending out there, because the hospitals are talking to someone in Columbus directly to determine who to test. But as soon as a positive result is reported, the county health department begins immediately tracking everyone the person came into recent contact with and get them all to stay in quarantine before they become symptomatic.

“The number one mission of our department is to prevent the spread of disease,” Vins said.

Vins said most people would never knowingly spread the disease to others and the health department is working hard to make certain those who have been exposed are notified. But he does not believe releasing the names or additional information about those who test positive is the right answer, because just because someone saw a person somewhere recently does not automatically mean they were exposed to the coronavirus, but he understands the fear it can cause.

“Even if you know someone and you saw them on the street, that’s not a close contact,” Vins said. “Just because you know someone … now it becomes personal and you begin to fear for yourself and your family.”

Additionally, the health department is helping businesses and employees to understand and comply with the Governor’s latest orders. More information about those orders has been added to the Columbiana County Health Department website https://columbiana-health.org.

Even before the first case, the Columbiana County Health Department began gearing up for this situation, moving staff from their regular duties to those related to the anticipated health outbreak. This also means a lapse in the money that usually comes in through the health clinic, inspection fees and other normal activities of the health department.

Vins pointed to the Ebola crisis several years ago as the point when a disease and disaster fund was started in the county Health Department’s budget. Carryover money from the townships has been going into that fund, which has built up over time. This money is expected to help cover the costs at the health department.

Additionally, the county health department learned earlier this week it will receive nearly $74,000 from Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that Congress passed, which will also be used to help cover the costs of the staff and extra people needed through the schools to track the additional coronavirus cases expected in Columbiana County.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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