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32 more county COVID-19 cases

LISBON — Another death was reported and the number of coronavirus cases in Columbiana County jumped an additional 32 cases on Friday, the largest increase by far which brought the total to 399 cases.

The Columbiana County Health Department attributed the large increase to the FCI-Elkton federal prison. Health Commissioner Wes Vins noted the prison had been testing many of the inmates within the facility and has been keeping those testing positive separated from the rest of the population.

The prison had used in-house tests to determine who should be quarantined from the other inmates. Then lab tests were performed on those inmates, resulting in 28 new positive tests. Those test results were then added to the state numbers at one time. Additionally, Vins said the prison has not needed to transport additional inmates out to the hospitals for the past three weeks.

Of the 399 accumulated COVID-19 cases in Columbiana County, the health department reports nearly 25 percent, 94 of the cases, have been inmates from FCI-Elkton.

“We should expect to see more increases in cases from them as they continue to test,” Vins said, noting they have been in communication.

The federal Bureau of Prisons reports FCI-Elkton now has 118 inmates and 12 staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19. There have been 53 inmates and 40 staff members recovered from having coronavirus. Nine inmates have died.

Half of the county’s deaths have now been from long-term care facilities. Friday’s reported death was an 80-year-old man who had underlying health conditions. His death brings the number of county deaths to 44 and the number from long-term care facilities to 22.

Vins said Friday that while there have been larger numbers of cases reported at the Salem North Healthcare this week, those were slowly added over time to the numbers. Any place where there are close quarters, Vins said, there will be a higher rate.

Another 150 test kits arrived this week, bringing the totals received through the county health department to 600. Vins said test kits are distributed to the two county hospitals and they are trying to distribute more to nursing homes to help recognized those cases early. The hospitals and nursing homes also have been also obtaining extra test kits through private sources.

Friday was the day restaurants with outdoor patios could begin operations and Vins said he wants to see everyone doing it in a healthy safe way, then next week when there will be more opportunities for dine-in opportunities.

“It all comes down to social distancing and trying to be as clean and healthy as we can,” Vins said.

Laura Fauss, public information officer for the health department, said they have received some questions regarding how many patrons can gather in a restaurant or bar at one time. Each party or group should be 10 people or fewer and each group should be at least six feet from the other groups gathering to dine.

With a number of new directives from the state about what can open and when, Vins said the health department has been busy trying to stay on top of all the changes and get answers for businesses which have questions as they resume operations. While health directives and rules usually take months and years to prepare, the current situation has new rules rolling out much more swiftly.

Additionally, Vins said there has been discussion with the local fair board about some things they may need to do if the county fair happens this summer. There is currently a group at the state level working on some guidelines for that and other summer events where people gather to happen.

“If everybody does the right things, this could go fine,” Vins said of the opening of businesses. Fauss added the residents of Columbiana County have done a great job flattening the curve. “Based on (early predictions) we had originally planned to be ready for 20 to 25 new cases per day, but that did not occur.”

Vins predicts it could take between one to three weeks to learn if the reopening of the county has led to a large increase in cases.

The Ohio Department of Health reported 25,349 confirmed cases and an additional 1,605 probable cases. There have now been 1,431 confirmed deaths and an additional 150 deaths being listed as probably coronavirus related. For a second day in a row, both the number cases and new deaths were higher than the 21-day averages. However, the numbers of new hospitalizations (73) and ICU admissions (9) were both below the 21-day average.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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