Drawing on his background as a sanitarian involved with food inspection at restaurants, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner used a weekly Facebook Live news conference Thursday to advise residents on food safety in the wake of Wednesday’s storms.
American Electric Power reported that due to the severity of storm damage, some customers may not have power restored until 11 p.m. Friday.
“Everything that you store in your refrigerator should be 41 degrees or lower,” Warner said. “If it goes out of temperature, you’ve got a four-hour period to bring it back down before we start worrying about bacterial growth where that food may make you sick.”
He said one of the most important things to have in the refrigerator or home freezer was a basic thermometer, so that the interior temperature of the unit can be monitored by the homeowner.
In the event of a power outage, he said a typical refrigerator would maintain the proper temperature for about four hours, while a freezer wouldn’t breach that mark for about 48 hours if full, and 24 hours if half full.
From a safety and health standpoint, Warner cited the recommendation that appeared on the info-graphic the health department posted on its Facebook page: “Never taste food to determine if it’s safe to eat. When in doubt — throw it out.”
Other topics of discussion Thursday included:
• Power outages and medically-dependent home bound individuals: Warner recommended that not only should a person insure that the company that supplies their durable medical equipment needs such as home oxygen and other items be aware of their situation, but to also notify their electricity supplier so that their residence would have medical priority in restoring service.
• Recent protest marches and COVID-19: He said there had been concerns about the possibility of those with a positive test for COVID-19 infecting others during protests. In conversations with the Ohio Department of Health, he confirmed that the state has identified individuals who participated in a protest and are now positive for COVID-19. He said that nothing like that had happened in Highland County, but that it was something his office was watching.
• The Ohio COVID-19 survey: Twelve thousand postcards are to be mailed throughout the state, with the intent of asking residents to voluntarily participate in a random study. Warner said a letter would follow afterward, and that interested individuals could then register to take part in the survey, which would include a nasal swab and an at-home blood draw.
• Fourth of July parades and other events: He said the health department wasn’t taking a “cookie cutter” approach to mid-summer festivities, and was looking at each event as a stand-alone occurrence to evaluate risk levels and safety.
• Testing: “We’re getting to the point where anybody who wants to can get tested,” Warner said. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced later Thursday that testing would be expanded, adding that if a person was sick, symptomatic or had spent time around people diagnosed with the virus, they can be tested for COVID-19.
• Reopening the Highland County Senior Citizens Center and nursing homes: Opening senior centers was an item being looked at on the state level, he said, and in conversations with center director Mechell Frost, he said they were in the process of installing protective measures and evaluating operating procedures from a senior safety standpoint. No firm reopening date has been forthcoming from the state, Warner said, for senior centers or visitation to long-term care facilities.
With the number of COVID-19 cases in Ohio having reached the 40,000-plus mark Thursday and Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Action announcing her departure from that post, Warner said that Highland County has had 27 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus with seven others diagnosed as probable, for a grand total of 34.
However, of those 34 cases, he said that 28 had fully recovered, one was deceased, and 15 remained under observation in quarantine.
Warner had some good news on the coronavirus front, though, reporting that the county had only five active cases, which he said was the lowest number this month and was an encouraging sign.
Due to Warner being out of the office, he said there would be no Facebook live update on Thursday, June 18, but it would return Thursday, June 25 at 12:30 p.m.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.