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Health officials urge care over Thanksgiving to limit virus risk

LISBON — With more than 100 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours in Columbiana County, the County Health Department continues to urge residents to take steps to reduce their risks of the virus especially with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Since Thursday, the positive COVID-19 cases increased by 108 cases and Public Information Officer Laura Fauss of the county health department said there has been an average of 63 positive tests per day over the last week. Accumulatively there have now been 3,125 positive Columbiana County residents, 95 have died from complications of COVID-19 and 2,332 are considered recovered. There are now 698 active cases in the community, which is twice as many as the 335 active cases a week ago and more than the 226 active cases from the week before.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prison’s website, there are currently three positive inmates and six positive staff members at the FCI-Elkton facility.

Health Commissioner Wes Vins said at this point people need to know the virus is everywhere in the county, not isolated to any specific activity, to any one community or any one business.

“People need to understand it is here,” Vins said. “They need to be taking precautions particularly around Thanksgiving, absolutely avoid those large gatherings… maintain social distancing, continue to wear those masks, wash your hands.”

The health department is suggesting celebrating Thanksgiving with just those people in your immediate family or household this year while reaching out in other ways with those who are elderly or considered high risk.

“We all realize this holiday season is going to be different,” Vins said. “But let’s focus on what we do have and not what we don’t have. Let’s focus on those that we do have close to us. If we focus on what we don’t have and what we’re missing, perhaps that is not the right perspective. We should focus on what we do have and cherish them.”

The health department wants everyone to realize the coronavirus vaccine has not yet arrived and appointments cannot be made at this time. There are currently 10 places across the state where it will be arriving first, facilities which already have the ultra cold storage needed. The first vaccine needs to be stored at around 93 degrees below zero.

Vins noted the local vaccination team are working on the logistics for cold storage and quickly implementing it when the vaccine arrives here, but at this point they have been told to stand by. Work has already begun building the drive-through facility at the fairgrounds where vaccinations will be given. Vins thanked the County Commissioners for working so quickly to make it happen.

While Columbiana County went to level 3, red, on the Ohio Public Health Advisory map on Thursday, Vins said there are other counties that are experiencing five times the number of new cases per capita that we are in Columbiana County. Those places may see the vaccine arrive before we do.

The health department has been able to better streamline contact tracing efforts this week and will be working with the school nurses to have them even further assisting in efforts to explain quarantining to the close contacts of students in their districts.

“We’re in a good spot still,” Vins said, adding between streamlining the system and adding staff he feels the staff at the county health department are staying on top of things when it comes to tracking those with the disease and quickly reaching out to their close contacts. “That is still our best tool for the control of the virus in the absence of a vaccine. We see that as the most critical aspects of the existence of the health department…This is what has worked for many, many years on many, many communicable disease outbreaks over the past 100 years.”

Monday is Public Health Thank You Day and Vins said he wants say he is thankful he has a great staff, a great community and great partners, such as those at the local hospitals, infectious disease experts, local doctors offices, the local Emergency Operations Center, first responders and the schools.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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