Columbiana County back in the Orange

LIBSON – Since last week, there has been an increase of 29 COVID-19 positive tests in the county, including 27 community members and two residents of long-term care facilities. Because of this, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the county has moved from a yellow county to an orange county.

Prior to the announcement on Thursday, the county had just one of the seven indicators of a significant coronavirus outbreak, but now the county has activated two. First, the county has more than 50 cases per 100,000 population over the past two weeks. In fact, county commissioner Wes Vins said that it could be more.

“By their expectation, we could be over 100 cases per 100,000 in the last two weeks,” Vins said.

The second indicator is that more than 50 percent of the county’s positive cases have been outside of long-term care facilities. Since July 30, the county has had 31 positives in long-term care facilities and 24 health care workers. All health care workers and other employees of care facilities that live in the county are included in the community member number. There have been no prisoners from the Elkton Prison that have tested positive over that time frame.

The increase in positive cases makes a total of 1,698 in the county. Of those, 956 are inmates from the federal prison, 130 are residents from long-term care facilities and 612 are community members.

While Vins can’t attribute the increase in positive cases to one specific reason, he believes there are a few different factors. First, there has been a large increase in testing as well as more pre-screening before surgeries. Second, community spread has been established in the county, so positives are seen from one end of the county to the other. Lastly, Vins believes people in the county can do a better job in terms of masking and social distancing.

Masks are not required outdoors. However, if social distancing of six feet can’t be maintained, they are mandatory. DeWine recently singled out a flea market in Columbiana County where he said people are not wearing masks or maintaining proper social distance. Vins said that it has been challenging for outdoor venues to keep people apart.

“It’s difficult to prepare for that,” Vins said. “It is an outdoor, fluid environment. When you talk about these retail settings, like the flea markets, that’s a challenge for the operator. We need to make visitors understand that they have a responsibility to maintain that six-foot separation. They have responsibility to wear a mask when that six-foot separation can’t happen.”

With school districts preparing for their years, superintendents have continued to work with the health department while trying to implement the best strategies to start school with. Positive cases in the schools are inevitable, but Vins said there isn’t a specific number of positive cases in terms of pulling the plug on in-person learning.

A single positive case may not impact any other students. For example, some high school sports teams have had to shut down practice for a few weeks while others have had just a singular, isolated case with limited contact to other students.

“There are many pieces that are going to go into that decision-making process,” Vins said. “It’s going to be number of positives, severity of those positives or the number of other children or staff that are effected.”

Vins said that community activity is another important piece of the puzzle. Since schools are connected to communities, it will be important to monitor the relationship between cases.

Lastly, Vins emphasized how important it is for each individual in the county to take care of themselves in two ways. First, if county residents have a high level of stress or anxiety or are having trouble with COVID-19 related issues, it is important for them to seek help.

“This is very stressful,” Vins said. “We encourage anyone to seek assistance with that. We have the counseling center in town, and if you don’t know what to do, contact the mental health recovery services board.”

The second thing residents should do is continue their regular health check-ups.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re doing our back-to-school vaccines,” Vins said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re doing our preventative care for cancer. Just making sure that people keep up with their physicians if they have to get their medications renewed. We need to make sure people continue to take good care of themselves because there are other health concerns in our community besides COVID-19.”


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