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Washington, Athens counties at elevated risk for COVID-19

Rev. David Zerby speaks through a mask to a Marietta resident outside of First Congregational Church in April. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Washington and Athens counties were among those with elevated risk levels for coronavirus community spread that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday.

‘We had 18 counties move from yellow to orange” said DeWine, describing the elevation from a level 1 (yellow) to level 2 (orange) risk alert.

He explained the elevation in risk levels, through assessing state criteria of new cases, hospitalizations and the locations of spread (community versus localized via tallied data submitted through Wednesday) had warranted increased risk alerts.

Between Washington and Athens counties, 18 individuals from infancy to age 19, have tested positive for the virus.

This made up approximately 11 percent of the two counties’ total reported cases Thursday.

Washington and Athens counties risk level advanced by the Ohio Department of Health.

Breaking down the rest of the age groups of confirmed cases per the Ohio Department of Health Thursday, 42 individuals are in their 20s (25 percent), 15 individuals are in their 30s, 15 are in their 40s, 23 are in their 50s, 28 are in their 60s, 22 are in their 70s, and 22 are 80 years old or older.

“This means there is increased exposure and spread here,” explained Marietta-Belpre Health Commissioner Anne Goon. “Residents should exercise a higher degree of caution and follow all current health orders.”

Goon also noted that additional precautions by county residents are necessary “with increased concern for transmission to those who are considered high-risk (older or with underlying health conditions).”

According to Johns Hopkins University, Washington County’s fatality rate is 14.29 percent while

Athens County’s fatality rate is 1.27 percent.

“Fatality rate is calculated as total deaths divided by number of confirmed cases represented as a percent,” explains the university data site: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

A county’s alert level is determined according to the Ohio Department of Health, by seven data indicators:

New cases per capita.

According to Johns Hopkins University’s extrapolated data (neither county possesses a population of 100,000 people so rates must be multiplied in order to assess a per capita trajectory) at the present rates of infection Athens’ rate is 120.03 cases per 100,000 people and Washington’s rate is 232.73 cases per 100,000.

A sustained increase in new cases.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, 98 of Washington County’s 139 confirmed cases are presumed to have recovered, and 25 of Athens County’s 78 confirmed cases are presumed to have recovered.

But in the span from June 18 through Wednesday, Athens County confirmed 55 new cases and Washington County in the same time frame added 21 new cases.

The proportion of cases that are not traced to congregate living.

This week Marietta-Belpre Health Commissioner Anne Goon confirmed that no monitoring of active cases were within nursing homes in Washington County.

A sustained increase in emergency room visits.

Data on emergency room visits to Memorial Health System is released to the county and city health departments on Fridays.

A sustained increase in outpatient visits.

No present data on outpatient visits was publicly available Thursday.

A sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions.

Hospital admission data linked to coronavirus is also released to the county and city health departments on Fridays.

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed occupancy.

In Athens County, according to Johns Hopkins University, 11 ICU beds are available for the 65,327 total population.

By the same source, Washington County regularly relies on 15 ICU beds.

DeWine, in his state press conference Thursday explained that the elevation in risk levels for counties also increased mandated face coverings now in 12 counties.

Individuals visiting those counties are also asked to wear face coverings and exercise caution.

DeWine also answered for the order that went into effect Wednesday evening, which by one line required that any church patron attending services of a religious nature wear a face mask.

When pressed on this Thursday by the press pool at the statehouse DeWine stated that the mask mandate in the 12 counties designated a level three risk includes attendees of religious ceremonies and services but emphasized that the state has not and will not restrict worship gatherings, funerals or weddings from continuing to be performed.

Church and faith leaders are encouraged to lead their congregations to distance and wear facial coverings when gathered.

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