Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner explained the latest mask order for retail businesses from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) in a Monday post to the health department’s Facebook page.
“These orders can be confusing to read, so I have tried to list the main requirements below,” Warner wrote. “This order requires businesses that sell goods in person to do the following things:
* Require facial coverings for employees and staff;
* Post signage that requires the use of facial coverings;
* Post signage about maximum capacity and enforce physical distancing of six feet between people, and make other adjustments to store layout to encourage physical distancing as needed;
* Require employees to stay home if symptomatic;
* Designate a compliance officer at each location who is responsible for enforcement of this order;
* If issued a violation from someone with ODH, the local health department, or local law enforcement, the business will immediately close to the public for a period no more than 24 hours;
* An initial warning will be provided to a business before a notice of violation is delivered;
* Businesses must allow access to their property by ODH, the local health department, or local law enforcement;
* Citizens that see violations should notify ODH at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634);
* This order doesn’t apply to restaurants, bars, banquet centers, catering services, hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, body piercing, tanning facilities, gyms, dance studios, and personal fitness locations.”
The order went into effect on Monday.
Find the full order at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
The ODH also released an order regarding wedding receptions, banquet centers and similar venues. Warner stated that he had not had a chance to read it as of Monday evening, but would discuss it in a later update.
Warner requested that those with general questions about COVID-19 check the frequently asked questions page on the ODH’s website (coronavirus.ohio.gov) or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH before calling the Highland County Health Department.
“This helps us focus our phone time on high-risk priority areas,” Warner wrote.
On Friday, the Highland County Health Department implemented an automated case investigation survey, which asks newly diagnosed COVID-19-positive patients for information, in order to allow nursing staff to “focus their limited in-person phone time on cases with higher risk factors.”
Health department staff can still speak directly with those who are uncomfortable with completing the survey in this manner, though there will be a delay due to the volume of cases.
Warner reported Wednesday that the health department is “really struggling to keep up with quarantines and quarantine letters for everyone.” He asked Highland County residents who know they have been exposed to COVID-19 to enter quarantine on their own. Health department staff will contact them when they can.
Quarantine lasts 14 days from the last point of contact with a COVID-19-positive person.
In other local COVID-19-related news, Warner reported that the number of cases in Highland County remained “fairly level” over the weekend, something which he attributed to a decrease in new cases in local nursing homes.
Warner also reported an additional COVID-19-related death. There was no additional information as of press time.
Warner also reported that the number of Covid patients who have been hospitalized or placed in the ICU continues to increase rapidly in the region.
On Friday, he wrote, “Hospitalizations continue to increase with no indication that things are peaking. I don’t say this to frighten people, but it is concerning. I am actually afraid we will run out of healthy health care workers before we run out of beds.”
In a Friday Facebook post, Warner revisited the importance of wearing facial coverings and summarized a review of over 100 studies related to mask use.
“There was a lot of confusion about masks as source control early on,” Warner wrote. “Even government agencies contradicted themselves. This was confusing for everyone. Science gets better over time, and we need to learn and adjust as new and better information becomes available.
“There is now convincing evidence from scientifically controlled studies that show masks are effective as source control in preventing COVID-19 spread. Much of this evidence is from new studies that were completed in recent months and is specific to COVID-19.
“Cloth masks stop respiratory droplets from spreading as easily as without a mask.
“Masks are safe for nearly everyone, except for those with respiratory problems and some other conditions. There are no significant or common dangers to wearing one.”
Warner said he hoped this information would change “the continuing narrative around mask use.”
“Masks are not a political issue, they are not a sign of submission, they are not an assault on personal liberty. They are a temporary measure aimed at reducing disease transmission. That really is it, no other secret agenda,” Warner wrote. “We simply want to slow down disease rates until we have better tools available to keep people healthy. Vaccines are on the way, and the end of masks shouldn’t be far behind.”
The following are Highland County’s overall COVID-19 statistics as of Monday:
Highland County has had a total of 872 lab-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, according to the Highland County Health Department.
The health department reported that there were 119 actively sick patients and six COVID-19-related hospitalizations, and the health department is monitoring 393 Highland County residents for symptoms.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak reached Highland County, there have been a total of 56 COVID-19-related hospitalizations and 19 COVID-19-related deaths, and 734 patients have recovered from COVID-19.
As of Thursday, Highland County remained a “red” county with high case incidence, according to the Ohio Public Health Advisory System (OPHAS).
“Red” counties, which OPHAS also classifies as level 3 public emergencies, have “very high” COVID-19 exposure and spread.
According to the ODH, which reported 815 cumulative cases in the county as of Monday, of the cases in Highland County:
* 133 cases involved 50- to 59-year-olds. Of these cases, eight resulted in hospitalization.
* 128 cases involved 60- to 69-year-olds. Of these cases, 10 resulted in hospitalization, and two resulted in death.
* 110 cases involved 70- to 79-year-olds. Of these cases, 17 resulted in hospitalization, and four resulted in death.
* 107 cases involved 40- to 49-year-olds. Of these cases, six resulted in hospitalization.
* 100 cases involved 20- to 29-year-olds. Of these cases, one resulted in hospitalization.
* 89 cases involved 0- to 19-year-olds. Of these cases, one resulted in hospitalization.
* 80 cases involved 30- to 39-year-olds. Of these cases, one resulted in hospitalization.
* 65 cases involved someone 80 years old or older. Of these cases, 12 resulted in hospitalization, and 10 resulted in death.
* Three cases involved patients of unknown ages.
Warner previously stated that there is a delay in the reporting process between individual counties and the ODH.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.