Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner confirmed Monday that the county has registered its first death from COVID-19.
In a news release, Warner said that out of respect for the family, the deceased would only be identified as a male in his 80s that passed away at a hospital.
The death had been alluded to during the Facebook Live news conference that was streamed starting at 12:30 p.m. Monday from the Highland County Emergency Management Agency and health department offices in Hillsboro’s North High Business Center.
Confirmation of the death came shortly after 3 p.m. Monday.
EOC Public Information Officer Branden Jackman updated Highland County’s COVID-19 status, stating that there had been a total of 13 cases in the county as of Monday, with eight cases having recovered and five cases still considered active.
The original format of Monday’s news conference was to be dedicated to sorting through the 14-page document that detailed the three-phase plan to re-open the state, a document that Jackman described as “reading like instructions to hook up a stereo.”
However, much of the discussion for the first half-hour centered on the various types of face masks that were recommended for employees, or people going into private business, health or government offices that mandated them.
Warner said the biggest questions his office had been fielding had to do with why the public was being asked to wear masks in the first place, which he explained was to protect those at large from being infected by those that were asymptomatic, meaning those that carry the virus but show no symptoms, which he said could potentially be as high as 25 to 30 percent of the population.
“Having that mask over your mouth and nose keeps me from making you sick,” he explained. “And then when you wear a cloth mask, that keeps me from getting sick from you.”
He said that mask guidelines contained in the “Stay Safe Ohio” order recommended masks that were either cloth or fabric that cover both the nose and mouth, and went under the chin.
Other topics discussed Monday were:
• Campgrounds and Rental Cabins: Rental cabins were allowed to re-open on Monday. For campgrounds, the stay-at-home order still applied and prohibited weekend, short-term or transient campers. However, self-sufficient campers with pre-existing agreements will be permitted to use campgrounds. Jackman added that facilities like shelter houses, playgrounds and community showers won’t be open, and that self-sufficient campers must be able to manage their “gray water and black water.”
• Yard sales, which Warner said were considered as a retail operation and therefore prohibited under the order until Tuesday, May 12. While not specifically listed in the guidelines, he said the state had a checklist for those wanting to do a yard sale with regard to keeping people safe.
• Guidelines for re-opening restaurants: He said his office had been asking for a roll-out schedule to be used in preparing restaurants, barber shops and other businesses that were still closed, so that they could put everything in place to safely re-open. He said plans were being discussed with the lt. governor’s office as to the rules that would be in place.
• Anti-body testing: He said that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some anti-body testing without doing the normal rigorous testing procedure, but added that Highland Health Providers was planning to buy testing kits in the near future. The tests are being used to identify cases, he said, but the current anti-body testing had strengths and weaknesses due to them being “pushed out very quickly, and sometimes the technology outpaces the documentation, and the bureaucracy.”
• Were the Stay-at-Home and Stay-Safe-Ohio mandates legal? Warner said this was a hot button topic since his office had received calls and seen Facebook posts asking if the events of the past six weeks were even legal. He said though the legislature is responsible for making laws in the state, that same legislature in 2013 gave the director of the Ohio Department of Health, in section 3701.13 of the Ohio Revised Code, the authority to create orders when infectious diseases are involved.
“The faster that we adhere, and do what is expected of us from the state, I think we’ll get out this faster,” Jackman said. “If the people will do more than the minimum, and act safely, it will benefit everyone.”
The next Facebook live news conference will be Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.