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County COVID toll up to 54

LISBON — A 54-year-old man with underlying health conditions became the 54th death in Columbiana County due to COVID-19. He was the first death in more than two weeks due to the disease.

There have now been 893 coronavirus cases in the county with 522 cases attributed to inmates from the FCI-Elkton federal prison and 71 residents of long-term care facilities.

Although 522 cases are a lot, county Health Commissioner Wes Vins said in a situation where there are about 2,300 inmates living in close proximity, a congregate setting, that roughly 22 percent infection rate is lower than he would have expected. The fact that it has been a few weeks since the last inmate needed to be transferred from the prison to a hospital due to COVID-19 reflects on the great job the prison did in putting control measures in place and the help they received from everyone involved, including local officials, those involved from local and regional hospitals and at the state and the federal level.

Additionally, public information director Laura Fauss said she was involved on a call this week with Fresh Mark, the meat packing plant in Salem which had cases early on during the pandemic. Fauss said the plant can now say they have not had any cases in the last four weeks

“The work they did there was very impressive,” Fauss said, adding Fresh Mark has been asked by the state to share the procedures they put in place so other plants can learn from it. Some of it may be due to the plant having nurses employed there to monitor everyone.

There were two new cases reported in nursing homes in the county this week by the Ohio Department of Health, which lists one at Salem Healthcare West and one at Salem Healthcare North. During May, Vins said, all but four of the deaths in Columbiana County came from long-term care facilities. Fauss shared statistics from the state health department, which showed through May 27 that 63 percent of the COVID-19 related deaths were residents of nursing homes. Columbiana County has lost 28 residents of long-term care facilities, which is more than half of the deaths. Nine were inmates at FCI-Elkton.

Ohio cases released by the Ohio Department of Health show 34,639 confirmed cases and an additional 2,643 CDC probable cases. There have been 2,117 confirmed deaths and an additional 222 probable deaths. There have been 6,312 hospitalizations, including 61 new ones which is below the 21-day average of 76 hospitalizations per day. There are currently 693 Ohioans hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Ohio Hospital Association.

With protests in parts of Ohio and people becoming more comfortable with the gradual reopening of Ohio, Vins said there are concerns that cases could begin rising again, which could show up in the numbers over the next two or three weeks.

Still he suggests people should consider seeing their dentists again, getting those wellness checks and seeking their immunizations for their children. The county health department has reopened for immunizations and cancer screenings, which are most useful when things are caught early on.

— Vins said the health department did not recommend against having this year’s county fair when they met with the county fair board, only presented them with guidance as to what it would require to safely hold the fair this year with COVID-19. The county health department was prepared to support them with whichever decision they made.

— Vins said the health department as well as the city health departments for the local campuses will meet next week with Kent State officials to offer guidance as they consider reopening for in-person classes.

— Rabies baiting began this week in the southwest area of Columbiana County. The vaccines are being distributed by aircraft and vehicle through June 9. It is safe for many species of animals including pets. Leave them in place if found and wash any skin area that comes in contact with the bait with soap and water.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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