Health department helps with contact tracing as COVID-19 cases rise in county
LISBON — With COVID-19 numbers on the rise since the start of school, Medical Services Administrator Jamie Elenz told the board of health Wednesday, the staff has been helping schools with contact tracing.
Elenz said the school nurses are overworked right now and the Public Consulting Group (PCG), which took over contact tracing on June 1 at the request of the state of Ohio, is about seven to 10 days behind reaching people to quarantine.
Elenz said the nurses in her department have been fielding phone calls from people with questions about quarantining, such as what to do with siblings of a positive child.
Health Commissioner Wes Vins explained to the board the reason some area schools are returning to masking. The Ohio Department of Health flowchart states that if two students are sitting three feet from the other and one catches COVID-19, the other is required to quarantine, unless the other student is wearing a mask. The schools are trying to keep as many students in the seats as possible.
Elenz said the schools not only have students and staff with COVID-19, but also respiratory viruses, Hand, Foot and Mouth and the common cold.
Vins said the health department has ordered 3,600 COVID-19 tests and both the schools and the ESC currently have tests as they attempt to get quarantined students back to school sooner. Students can return on day eight if they test negative for COVID-19 on day five, six or seven.
The numbers continue to rise and Vins noted it has gotten ahead of them. He said the health department and other partners in the region have been working to obtain more supplies for local hospitals that are running low. Staffing also has reportedly been problematic for some local hospitals.
According to the East Liverpool Hospital’s Facebook page, there were 19 people there hospitalized on Wednesday with COVID-19. Of those, 16 were unvaccinated, one was fully vaccinated and the other two were partially vaccinated.
The Ohio Department of Health reported on Wednesday Columbiana County has 11,708 coronavirus cases, including 611 hospitalizations and 241 deaths. There have been 22 county residents between the ages of 0 and 19 hospitalized since the beginning and 1,527 cases in that age group.
Columbiana County remains behind the state average in vaccinations with 39 percent completing vaccinations.
Some people remain unwilling to become vaccinated. They are skeptical and resistant to the efforts by local, state and national health officials and politicians.
Three of those women attended the meeting of the board of health on Wednesday with one of them, Sherry Kissinger, claiming to be the spokesperson for the group.
While the other two women made videos, Kissinger said she had more than 600 signatures on a petition against the mandates that have been imposed on businesses and individuals since the beginning of the pandemic.
“You stepped all over our constitutional rights,” Kissinger said. “You unconstitutionally harassed businesses and churches.”
She read a lengthy statement criticizing if there is scientific evidence to support mask wearing and vaccines. She asked for numbers supporting the health measures and in contrast cited two studies that said masking does not prevent the spread of the disease.
The women talked about lawsuits in other parts of the state that had been filed against Governor Mike Dewine and health departments regarding the mandates.
Board President Shawn Apple asked Kissinger if she had lost any family members to COVID-19 and was told “no.”
“Well you might feel differently if you did,” Apple responded.
Vins pointed out the local health department was not responsible for creating any of the mandates imposed since the beginning of the pandemic. The local health department only followed the board orders given by the Ohio Department of Health.
The women noted people in Columbiana County will not put up with any additional mandates in the future.