ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading through the area and Belmont County has been designated a high-transmission county by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has two criteria that determine a county’s transmission rate classification: total new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days and the percentage of positive Nucleic Acid Amplification COVID-19 tests in the past seven days. Classifications are Low, Moderate, Substantial and High. A total of 0-9.99 new cases or 0-4.99 percent positive tests indicates Low; 10-49.99 new cases or 5-7.99 percent positive tests indicate moderate; 50-99.99 new cases or 8-9.99 percent positive tests is substantial; and more than 100 new cases or over 10 percent positive tests nets a high classification. The data can be found at covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.
If the two indicators suggest different transmission levels, the higher classification is selected.
Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul said along with a partially vaccinated parent and 3-year-old child who were found to be infected with the delta variant last week, an elderly but unvaccinated resident of an assisted care facility is also infected.
“We have three delta cases. We had the previous two, and we have this one,” Sproul said, adding he finds the matter complicated by Ohio Senate Bill 22, which became law and restricts state and health officials’ power to issue health mandates.
“We’re seeing an uptick in numbers again. It’s primarily the unvaccinated. As far as mandates, the legislature removed that ability from … the governor and the director (of health) from establishing a mask mandate, so right now it’s the private businesses that are able to do that. We are recommending if someone is not vaccinated or susceptible, they should mask up, just to protect their health.”
“Anybody who hasn’t received a shot, we’re suggesting they get the shot or at least wear a mask to protect their health,” Sproul said. “(Monday) we were at 73 active. A month or so ago we were down in the teens. It’s been a fair jump.”
Sproul said about 40 percent of Belmont County residents are vaccinated, including those most vulnerable.
“A good percentage of ours is actually the older population, but as we’ve seen from COVID and we’ve also seen from the delta, it is affecting the younger population also,” he said. “This is an evolving virus that we just have to keep track of and try and get in front of it if we can.”
He added vaccinations are available at the health department office at 68501 Bannock-Uniontown Road by appointment; call 740-965-1202 for more information.
“Just contact our office and we’ll gladly give them the shot,” he said.
According to his office, there have been a total of 6,543 total cases since the pandemic’s onset, with 6,346 recoveries. There are 78 active cases, no hospitalizations and COVID-related deaths among residents stand at 119.
The state’s numbers differ. According to coronavirus.ohio.gov, there have been 6,261 total cases in Belmont County and 6,015 recoveries, with COVID-related deaths at 179.
In Harrison County, Garen Rhome, health administrator, said the county remains classified at a “moderate” transmission rate by the CDC.
“However our neighbors Carroll, Jefferson, Belmont and Guernsey (counties) are all classified as ‘substantial’ transmission levels. The information we have been providing the public in the last week or so since the CDC made the recommendations is to take a look at where you live, where you work or where you travel to. Take a look at that community’s transmission level … and act accordingly.”
Rhome said anyone in a high-transmission area is advised to follow CDC guidelines.
“Unvaccinated individuals should be wearing a mask in most public, indoor areas,” he said. “It has been that way for quite awhile. … The big change is the uptick in the area from the delta variant.”
Harrison County is also on the lookout for cases of the delta variant.
“We have no known delta. We have not encountered any known delta variants yet in Harrison County among our active cases,” he said. “We could see that on the lab report when the lab … takes it, to find out what variant it is.”
His office reports total cases at 1,174 since the pandemic’s onset, with 1,147 recoveries. There are three active cases and no hospitalizations. A total of 24 people have died after contracting the virus.
According to coronavirus.ohio.gov, there have been a total of 1,157 cases in Harrison County and 1,107 recoveries and 38 people have died after contracting COVID-19.
For more information about vaccine availability in Harrison County, call the health department at 538 N. Main St., Cadiz at 740-942-2616.
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