Active COVID cases on decline

The number of actively ill COVID-19 patients in Highland County is at its lowest point since the pandemic began in mid-March, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said during the health department’s final Facebook Live weekly update.

Warner reported that there have been 33 lab-confirmed cases and seven probable cases.

Of the 40 reported cases, Warner said 35 met the criteria to be considered fully recovered.

To date, one Highland County resident has died from COVID-19, and one resident is currently hospitalized as of Wednesday, and 12 are quarantined, down from 30 a few weeks ago.

“There are four people in the actively sick category right now, which is the lowest it’s been for quite some time,” Warner said. “About two weeks ago, we had a slight increase, so since we’re at four, that’s really encouraging news.”

With nearly 100 percent of the state re-opened, Warner and Emergency Operations Center Public Information Officer Branden Jackman dispelled any rumors about a possible second lockdown, noting that with the exception of some hot spots, the number of COVID-19 cases has declined, and the medical community has a better understanding of the virus.

Also discussed Wednesday:

• Reopening of the Highland County Senior Citizens Center — Warner said he had another meeting scheduled with Highland County Senior Citizens Center Director Mechell Frost on July 1 to discuss reopening plans and strategies. According to Warner, Ohio Governor DeWine is expected to issue new rules concerning visitation rules for nursing homes, and Warner said he hopes to have some official reopening dates next week.

• Vacations — With no state guidelines requiring people to stay home, Warner said his office recommends people self-monitor for 14 days when returning from a vacation in a COVID-19 “hot spot.” Warner discouraged those who are sick or notice symptoms before their vacations from leaving in the first place so as to find a balance between a return to normalcy and staying safe.

• Risk-based approach to events — This type of approach, Warner said, was to evaluate different events on their merits rather than a “one-size fits all” approach. Warner added that the health department had recently received grant funding to use in providing more hand sanitizing stations at events such as the Highland County Fair.

• Masks — While some professions, such as dental and hair care, are mandated to wear a face mask and other professions either do not wear or just ignore them, one Facebook viewer asked if she was wasting her time in wearing a facial covering. Warner said the current Stay Safe Ohio order is in effect until July 1. Warner said he expects that masks may be required in some professions for the foreseeable future.

Jackman added that wearing a mask below one’s nose defeats the purpose.

“Where do they put the swab when they do the viral testing?” Jackman asked. “They stick that swab up your nose.”

• Don’t panic if you see National Guard soldiers near nursing homes — To assist with COVID-19 testing, Ohio National Guard personnel were deployed to extended care facilities, and Warner said the image of soldiers in full Battle Dress Uniform, or BDU, “made some people really nervous.” Nation Guard personnel have since traded in their BDUs for medical scrubs. Though the National Guard is not currently in Highland County, Warner said members of the National Guard have been deployed to neighboring Adams and Clermont counties.

• School planning — According to Warner, the state is still putting together its planning recommendations for reopening schools in the fall. The Highland County Health Department has met with superintendents to address their concerns. Warner said the school districts and the health department have been going through evaluation surveys that were mailed to parents, students and staff members to gauge their comfort levels of acceptable risk. Two “hot button” topics addressed on the survey were the requirement of wearing face masks and making bus transportation practical, reasonable and safe.

• Fourth of July fireworks — Local health departments began meeting with fireworks exhibitors to create guidelines for safe celebrations weeks back, Warner said, pointing out that while the state initially banned them, Warner maintained there was really no difference in the risk levels between that and staging a county fair.

Warner and Jackman said that Wednesday’s Facebook Live update was the final news conference, but Warner added any future discussions on the digital platform would be on an “as needed” basis.

“We’re going to hold things off until we have a significant development here locally,” Warner said, “then at that point we’ll put some announcements out and open this back up.”

Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571

Pictured, from left: Highland County Emergency Operations Center Public Information Officer Branden Jackman and health commissioner Jared Warner during Wednesday’s final Facebook Live weekly update., from left: Highland County Emergency Operations Center Public Information Officer Branden Jackman and health commissioner Jared Warner during Wednesday’s final Facebook Live weekly update. Screenshot by Tim Colliver
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