County, like others, sees surge in COVID-19 cases

County, like others, sees surge in COVID-19 cases

by Craig Lovelace

Blood thinners are anticoagulants and can make it tougher for a person’s blood to clot.

Looking at an Ohio map detailing the spread of the coronavirus, one gets the idea that the state swallowed a bottle of blood thinners considering the amount of red covering most of the state’s 88 counties. 

Pickaway County found itself tossed into that sea of red on Nov. 5 when Gov. Mike DeWine announced that it was getting elevated to a red-level 3 public health emergency from a less severe orange-level 2. In other words, there’s been too much COVID-19 spreading.

And Adam Negley, director of Pickaway County Public Health since Sept. 14, knew it was only a matter of time.

 “I had a nice two-week honeymoon where COVID was pretty much at the baseline for a month or so through August until October when it really started ramping up,” he said. “[In October] there was this broad surge occurring that clued us in to the fact that we would be experiencing a similar phenomenon in Pickaway County,” Negley said.

And it has.

On Oct. 1, public health recorded 32 positive COVID-19 cases over a 10-day period in a non-congregant population. By Oct. 15, those new positive cases totaled 119. On Nov. 2, the number stood at 213, and the number reached 369 Monday. (See table down below.)

Further, Negley cited a dramatic increase in the new case rate that stood at 41 per 100,000 residents on Oct. 1 and has since ballooned to 355 per 100,000 residents as of Nov. 5, a 10-fold increase. It’s one of the factors that got the county bumped up into level 3 from the less serious level 2 Thursday from a level 2 (orange) on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, 

“The good news is we don’t seem to have many hospital admissions … but that is something we are very concerned about,” he said.

A similar concern is expressed by registered nurse Jodi Keller of the Central Ohio Trauma System, who is the regional coordinator for 27 hospitals spread across 15 central Ohio counties, including Pickaway, Fayette and Ross. Everyone is stretched, she said, and the surge is not making it any easier.

“How do we not overwhelm the hospital system?” she asks. “The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.”

She said rural hospitals are getting pinched pretty hard and stymied in their response because of the influx of COVID patients in Franklin County.

“Some of those hospitals are keeping as many as 30 patients because Franklin County can’t take them.”

The fluid nature of the pandemic forces individuals and experts to adapt on the fly.

At Circleville City Schools, the district idled its bus transportation after one driver tested positive and other department members may have interacted with others who have tested positive, according to Evan Debo, the district’s communications manager. Approximately half of the department staff members are quarantined.

The district learned of the positive case late Monday and immediately alerted parents of the situation. It has returned to remote learning only at least through the Thanksgiving holiday, Debo said, adding that the district nurse and Public Health are conducting contact tracing to examine the scope of the spread, if any.

“That one positive case is what set it off,” he said.

Spread of the coronavirus is describe by some as out of control nationally. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered a curfew for retail businesses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. starting Thursday, and reiterated compulsory mask wearing for anyone entering a retail business – with exceptions – with an establishment enforcing this mandate and clearly posting signs at entrances to that effect. In addition, state workers, Public Health employees and law enforcement can enforce the mandate as well.

Negley said since July Public Health has received 62 local complaints about people not wearing masks.

In addition to the increase in new cases per capita, the county’s bump up to red-level three was determined due to these data indicator averages: sustained increase in emergency room visits from 1.1 average visits on Oct. 26 to 2.4 on Nov. 1; sustained increase in outpatient visits from 15.6 visits on Oct. 24 to 20.1 on Oct. 31; and a sustained increase in new cases from 8.3 on Oct. 21 to 19.4 by Oct. 30.

Those dates coincide with the Oct. 24 campaign rally by President Trump at the Pickaway County Fairgrounds. Negley said while some people who attended the rally tested positive for the coronavirus, they also had other potential exposure sources as well. Earlier this year, some 22 COVID-19 positive cases were contact traced back to the Pickaway County Fair held in later June at the fairgrounds.

Looking ahead, Negley said state grants of $200,000 to $250,000 will let the agency hire additional staff to help with increase contact tracing, which he said is a time-consuming process. Increasing that end also will allow Public Health to better manage and prioritize its caseload.

“Because at some point, this is going to overwhelm us, and we want to make sure we have something in place to investigate the highest-risk cases that arise from schools or other congregant settings or come from high-risk areas.”

confirmed positive cases
10-day trend
Oct. 11496+32
Oct. 51515+52
Oct. 75533+67
Oct. 97552+80
Oct. 149603+116
Oct. 1612617+122
Oct. 2014657+130
Oct. 2216670+134
Oct. 2616708+152
Nov. 211858+213
Nov. 414933+269
Nov. 614989+301
Nov. 9141,047+340
Nov. 10141,091+316
Nov. 13131,157+331
Nov. 16111,238+369
The data reflects local non-congregate cases only. For area prisons, there were 2,347 confirmed positive cases on Nov. 16. There have been a total 50 deaths with 13 community deaths and 37 inmate deaths. Source: Pickaway County Public Health

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