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Region ranks high in Ohio’s COVID-19 cases

Washington County Health Department nurse Barb Piehowicz administers the first dose the Moderna vaccine to Frontier Boy’s Basketball Coach and Athletic Director Roger Kirkpatrick at the conclusion of January. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Earley, Washington County Health Department)

Coronavirus positive caseloads, weather delays of vaccine clinics and multiple boards of health meetings have put public health back in the spotlight this week outside the confines of a January outbreak of the virus in the county jail.

Tuesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine released an updated list of the highest occurrence of COVID-19 cases by county.

Athens County was number 2. Washington County was number 5. Meigs County was number 7. That puts three of the six southeast Ohio counties in the highest incident rates in the state for the first two weeks of February; and excluding incarcerated individuals.

“Some counties went up but some of the other ones that weren’t previously in the top 10 went down, too. And that boost is what boosted Washington County up in the rankings,” said Marietta-Belpre Health Commissioner Anne Goon. “Overall, the numbers are much better than where they were a month ago, when counties were in the 700 and 800 new cases, or some of them were over 1,000 cases per 100,000, but still not not where you want to be.”

According to DeWine’s presentation, Washington County saw 237 new cases of the virus within the Feb. 1-14, that number has since dipped to 177 between Feb. 3 and Wednesday’s release of records according to the Ohio Department of Health’s release of cases by zip codes within Washington County.

For the past 11 months, Goon explained, the comparison of new cases versus cases per capita (100,000 people) helps to compare positive rates despite variation in county populations.

“To make it so that we can make valid comparisons against counties of different sizes, that’s why they use the cases per 100,000, so it makes it so it’s an apples to apples comparison,” she said.

Today’s county vaccine clinic rescheduled

At Wednesday’s special Washington County Board of Health meeting (separate from the Marietta-Belpre Health Department) Regional Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Crystal Earley noted that due to predicted inclement weather this week, today’s vaccine clinic at the Broughton Community Center on Ohio 821 has been rescheduled for Monday.

“They’re keeping their same appointment time and if they can’t make it that day we ask that they email clinics@wcgov.org and we can make other arrangements,” said Earley.

She noted that all vaccines previously scheduled for Monday will also take place at their scheduled times.

“Monday will be our biggest one ever, we’re extending the day to 5 p.m. to make sure we get everyone in,” said Earley.

Also Wednesday during the Washington County Board of Health’s special meeting an interim director of nursing was appointed following the dismissal of the former director last week.

The Times is reviewing supplied public records requested last week following the dismissal. See a future edition of the Times for that analysis.

Board Member Dr. Jeff Patey noted for the record of the special Washington County Board of Health meeting Wednesday that since November he has requested a review of the hiring and subsequent exit of the former health administrator. Such a review has not appeared on agendas in December, January or this month.

Board President Bruce Kelbaugh confirmed Wednesday his request, alongside Patey’s request to review all policies concerning human resources and staffing, that the discussion would be on the March regular agenda.

Friday’s city board of health meeting

Goon also noted the joint city department’s scheduled board of health meeting and the planned announcement of 12 locations for the public and certain populations with barriers to healthcare access to be provided with free at-home antigen tests for the virus.

“We’re trying to think about, where do you see groups of people (where the virus) most easily spread,” she explained. “Schools are one obvious place to think about, not necessarily during the school day then but it’s the things people do after school, on the weekends. So it’s just a way of trying to make them more available to people.”

Those sites and materials including “frequently asked questions” can be viewed below

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What’s Next:

¯ The Marietta-Belpre Board of Health is scheduled to meet Friday at 10 a.m.

¯ The Washington County Health Department’s combined vaccination clinic Monday will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to cover shots scheduled for today and for Monday.

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