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Panel looks at rising COVID numbers

LISBON — Members of the Columbiana County Health Department Advisory Council got a chance to look at current county COVID-19 numbers and ask questions at the group’s meeting on Monday.

Health Commissioner Wes Vins reported locally we are seeing 400 cases a week, while the statewide average is 600 cases. About 25 percent of those cases are currently children and although children usually fare better with COVID-19 than older residents, Vins said there have been 14 county children hospitalized due to the virus and a couple of those were fairly serious.

Vins also predicted the case numbers will continue to rise awhile if the same trajectory continues as in November. He shared with members of the council that Columbiana County has historically been about two weeks behind the statewide averages and state health experts believe the state is about two weeks or so from the peak of the latest spike.

Additionally, Vins talked about the low vaccination rates in Columbiana County compared to other parts of the state. Of the 38.42 percent of county residents, roughly 40,000 people, who are vaccinated, there have been 155 break-through cases. Still, that is only about .38 percent of those vaccinated.

Vaccines continue to be available at about 30 pharmacies, hospitals and clinics throughout the county.

Vins said the health department continues to try to help answer questions, while the schools and PCG, the company the state put in charge of contact tracing, continue to work on getting people quarantined, who need to be quarantined. He expressed frustration that the health department staff, which handled contact tracing into May, was asked to step back and let PCG handle the contact tracing, but by getting help for PCG through the school nurses he believes things are improving in getting in contact with people quicker again.

Vins said the health department just ordered about 3,500 test kits, which can be used to get people out of quarantine faster, if they test negative for COVID-19 on days five, six or seven of quarantine.

Members of the advisory council were encouraged to ask questions. One member, Center Township Trustee Tim Novak said he believes the reason why a lot of people are not getting vaccinated is the feeling they are being pushed into it by people who seem to think they are “morons” because they do not trust the vaccine. Additionally, he questions the safety of vaccines that are supposedly FDA approved when he has no recourse should he have a bad reaction to a vaccine. He also questions whether those who mathematically have a high rate of full recovery need to be vaccinated.

Novak asked about local numbers of hospitalizations and was told there are 19 residents in the hospital for COVID-19 today, although Vins said it is difficult to give him a lot more information he requested such as co-existing conditions due to confidentiality requirements.

“I don’t get mad at people who got (vaccinated),” Novak said. “Don’t get mad at me for choosing not to do it.”

Another trustee asked about whether masks work and Vins said a recent study by John Hopkins Hospital was convincing that masks do stop or reduce larger droplets from getting out, which may contain COVID-19 virus.

For now, Vins said he is not hearing from the state any push institute any mandates, but cannot say what may happen on a national level.

Vins also informed the advisory council about the county health department’s budget, which gains most of its budget for purchases and programs through grants. What is left is $380,000, which serves the 73,170 people served by the health department or a cost of $5.23 per person.

Before the council adjourned, Chairman Jordan Williams asked for four others to volunteer to look at any possible appointments for the health board on March 7, the next meeting. Williams said he has gone to several recent meetings of the health board and believe they are working well, but he does not want to see the next renewal or appointment approach without a committee doing “due diligence.”

The Advisory Council is made up of representatives from the local townships, small towns and a county commissioner.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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