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County health commissioner not panicking over COVID case numbers

LISBON — Columbiana County’s rising coronavirus numbers can in part be attributed to a rise in cases at a long-term care facility, according the county Health Commissioner Wes Vins on Friday.

Currently, Columbiana County has 1,578 accumulative cases, which public information officer Laura Fauss said includes 1,468 who have recovered. Of the 1,578 cases, 956 were inmates from the federal prison, 110 are residents from long-term care facilities and 512 are community members. There has been an increase of 61 community positives since last Friday.

Vins said some of those general community positives can be linked to health care workers who had been serving those from a long-term care facility. There has been a 15-case increase in long-term care facility cases. Several other cases are asymptomatic with people being found due to sports teams being tested, businesses serving as a testing site and people being prescreened prior to surgery.

Those asymptomatic people who test positive are being asked to isolate for 10 days and those who are deemed a contact are asked to quarantine for 14 days.

There have been no additional deaths reported, a number which remains at 60. Another number that has barely increased is hospitalizations with the Ohio Department of Health listing Columbiana County with 168.

On Thursday, the county was moved from level one yellow to level two orange on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, meeting two of the seven indicators regarding exposure and spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, Vins said that does not mean a change to the back-to-school plans for every school district in Columbiana County.

Instead, Vins said the health department has promised the school superintendents to keep them informed if there is an outbreak involving community members in a particular zip code which cause concern to be an indication the schools should consider changing the plans the particular school district affected.

Vins and the health department have been continuing to work with the superintendents about the start of school, the upcoming Shaker Woods Village, the junior fair and Crestview’s theater program performing the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” this weekend. In every case, Vins said the people involved in the programs are considering and implementing multiple changes to make their event as safe as possible in light of the coronavirus situation.

For instance, by size the Shaker Woods Village could have had 3,800 people spread out over their 10-acre site, but chose to go with an even safer 3,200 people. Either number was far below the usual crowds. There will be no entertainment and Vins said it is more of a retail sales location, but instead of a inside facility it is outdoors, which is considered safer by many experts. The small buildings will have occupancy limits, a team of 15 people will be working to make sure everyone is adhering to guidelines and health screenings will be conducted.

On the stage at Crestview’s Performing Arts Center, Vins said there will be limited actors and actresses including those wearing masks on stage, the smaller than usual pit orchestra has been moved farther from the stage and only families will be in physical attendance, spaced throughout the auditorium where about 900 people could usually crowd in.

“The arts and theater are as important to our schools and community as our sports teams and 4-H programs,” Vins said. “Implementing good risk reduction protocols for these activities are essential to the continual development of our young people.”

At the county fairgrounds, 4-Hers will still get a chance to show their projects, but the fair as a whole has been canceled.

“There’s a lot of people going to great lengths to protect the legacy of the junior fair and protect those children,” Vins said of the junior fair organizers.

In all those events, stores and any public place people may go, Vins said the plans for safety involve the same four risk reduction techniques health care officials long have been urging — distance, facial coverings, hand washing and cleaning surfaces.

“If everybody does those things in our everyday life, we’re going to make great progress against this,” Vins said. “Those four things are the backbones to reducing the risk.”

While we continue to learn to live with coronavirus, Vins said he wants to encourage those finding themselves overwhelmed by the situation to seek counseling through a local organization like the Counseling Center or call a hotline.

As of Friday afternoon, there are 91,159 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 3,489 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. A total of 10,678 people have been hospitalized, including 2,534 admissions to intensive care units.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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