As the number of COVID-19 cases in Highland County continues to increase, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner stated on Monday that he expects the county to increase to a red county, which denotes a level 3 public emergency in the Ohio Department of Health (ODH)’s public health advisory system.
“It is even possible, if case rates continue, that we will make the top 10 list for cases per capita for Ohio,” Warner wrote in a Monday post to the Highland County Health Department’s Facebook page. “There are no automatic actions or steps in the general community that going red would trigger. Going red is an indicator that things are not going well at the moment and that things are moving in the wrong direction.”
As of Thursday, Highland County returned to a level 2 public emergency, which represents increased COVID-19 exposure and spread.
If the county does go red, Highland County will join nearby Scioto, Pike, Ross and Fayette counties, which ODH identified as red counties as of Thursday.
For more information regarding ODH’s public health advisory system, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/public-health-advisory-system/.
In a Friday Facebook post, Warner reported that he closed the health department to the public on Friday afternoon to allow staff to focus on what he referred to as “several ongoing COVID-19 clusters.”
“I had really hoped that our general community case counts would stabilize, but they have continued to increase over the past two days,” Warner wrote. “We are working through COVID-19 cases in two additional nursing homes, two new student cases, a large local employer, and two funerals.”
Later Friday evening, Warner reported that the health department was tracking two clusters following two separate large gatherings, which left a total of four people actively sick on Friday while others displayed symptoms and awaited test results; four cases in a small congregate setting; student cases in the Lynchburg-Clay and Fairfield school districts; and resident and staff cases at Crestwood Ridge Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in Hillsboro, the Laurels of Hillsboro, and Heartland of Hillsboro.
Warner reported that there were three active cases involving Lynchburg-Clay students and 59 — including a school sports team — were in quarantine; at Fairfield, Warner reported one student case while 30 — including school bus students — were in quarantine.
In local nursing homes, Warner reported that Crestwood had 33 active cases involving residents and 11 involving staff; the Laurels had three cases involving residents and two involving staff; and Heartland had one case involving staff.
Warner stated Friday evening that cases and patient information were “still settling out,” and as a result, the numbers he reported on Friday were likely to change as the health department updated patients’ addresses and contact information.
“We are currently waiting to see how doctors are going to classify deaths for several recent patients as well,” Warner wrote Friday. “This was not a good week for COVID-19 in Highland County.”
In a Monday Facebook post, Warner stated that though the health department was closed to the public in observance of Columbus Day, “our nursing team is spending their holiday tracking down new cases and contacts. These numbers will continue to change over the next week.”
In the same post, Warner stated that many of the new cases involved people who attended events, worked, visited friends and participated in other “normal” activities while they felt sick.
“Please, if you are sick, stay home!” Warner wrote. “Another frustrating thing that has been reported to the health department is that several people who are quarantined have not been following quarantine orders. Please, if you have been placed in quarantine, stay home. I know it is inconvenient, but we are asking you to make a personal sacrifice in order to protect the health of our community.”
Warner also requested Monday, on behalf of Highland District Hospital (HDH), that community members not go to HDH for COVID-19 testing if they have mild symptoms.
“If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please start with a call to your primary care provider,” Warner said. “Please do not go to the Emergency Department for COVID-19 testing for mild symptoms or to be tested after you have been exposed to someone who had COVID-19.”
In a Sunday Facebook post, Warner shared the following free local resources for those seeking COVID-19 testing:
* Corner Pharmacy, 259 Jefferson St. in Greenfield.
According to Warner, Corner Pharmacy typically offers tests on Tuesday and Thursday.
Those interested should preregister at www.doineedacovid19test.com.
* CVS Pharmacy, 1795 Columbus Ave. in Washington C.H.
According to Warner, CVS typically offers tests throughout the week.
Those interested should preregister at www.cvs.com/store-locator/cvs-pharmacy-address/1795+Columbus+Avenue-Washington+Court+House-OH-43160/storeid=3408?fbclid=IwAR0fMZ0w-DaiSldW4QSH7Fq9DknI8W_CXmR1WAXPOs_CHv4PnTWIzMxt6uI.
* Pixel Test by LabCorp.
According to Warner, Pixel Test is a free mail-in test.
Those interested should visit www.pixel.labcorp.com.
The following are updated COVID-19 numbers for Highland County as of Monday:
The health department recorded a total of 351 lab-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases.
In a previous Facebook post, Warner stated that probable cases must “[meet] clinical criteria AND epidemiologic evidence with no confirmatory laboratory testing performed for COVID-19” or “[meet] presumptive laboratory evidence AND either clinical criteria OR epidemiologic evidence.”
The health department has documented 26 probable cases in Highland County since the pandemic began.
The health department also reported that 83 people were actively sick and seven were hospitalized in connection with COVID-19. The health department was also monitoring 235 people for symptoms.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, there have been a total of 34 COVID-19-related hospitalizations and four COVID-19-related deaths in Highland County, and 264 patients have recovered from COVID-19.
According to ODH, which reported 312 overall cases throughout the county as of Monday, of the cases in Highland County:
* 51 cases involved 50- to 59-year-olds, five of whom were hospitalized.
* 50 cases involved 70- to 79-year-olds, 11 of whom were hospitalized and one of whom later died.
* 50 cases involved 60- to 69-year-olds, seven of whom were hospitalized and one of whom later died.
* 46 cases involved 40- to 49-year-olds, three of whom were hospitalized.
* 36 cases involved 20- to 29-year-olds, one of whom was hospitalized.
* 31 cases involved 30- to 39-year-olds, one of whom was hospitalized.
* 31 cases involved 0- to 19-year-olds, one of whom was hospitalized.
* 16 cases involved someone 80 years old or older, five of whom were hospitalized and two of whom later died.
* One case involved someone of an unknown age range.
For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ohio, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.