Home Local News COVID-19 Wyandot County sees surge in coronavirus cases

Wyandot County sees surge in coronavirus cases

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Daily trends
In this chart from the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, last updated Wednesday, trends in Wyandot County’s daily cases can be seen. Wyandot County Public Health’s Director of Environmental Health Jeff Ritchey said that while daily case counts are reported as results come in, cases are charted based on onset date, which gives a better idea of the times when a person was exposed to the virus.
Ohio Department of Health graphic

By CALLAN PUGH
City editor

Wyandot County has seen a surge in new cases over the last week with active COVID-19 positive cases up from 12 to 41 from Oct. 7 to Wednesday.

While Wyandot County has seen more than 41 active cases at one time over the course of the pandemic, additionally concerning this time around, according to Wyandot County Public Health Director of Environmental Health Jeff Ritchey, is the lack of congregate cases among those numbers, with most cases appearing to be unrelated.

“Probably the only reason we didn’t turn red last July was because we had a majority of our cases in congregate settings, so those are populations like nursing homes, things like that,” Ritchey explained.

Other congregate settings could include assisted living facilities, school buildings or places of work and prisons.

“If you’re looking at the [areas] where individuals have tested positive, it’s all over the county, so it’s not like we see 10 people today from a particular employer, and that’s one of the reasons I think that when you look at the Public Health Alert System, that they use the indicators of congregate verses non-congregate,” Ritchey explained. “A lot of [what we’re seeing now] is just general spread. For instance, if we know a majority of our cases are at a nursing home or a prison, as long as we stay away from there, we’re okay. But when you’re seeing a shotgun dispersal of cases throughout the county, with no specific known source for those cases [besides] those people having to have contact with somebody to get ill, then you know you’re having community spread.

“So your chances of potentially coming into contact with someone who’s sick or asymptomatic increases. So if you don’t want to get sick and spread it to other people you need to protect yourself and your family members.”

As of 9 a.m. today, Ritchey said the health department had not been notified of a change to red on the Public Health Advisory System, but he said it will take the community working together to avoid that outcome in future weeks. To turn red on the advisory system, the county would have to hit four to five indicators. This week, the health department expects to meet at least three indicators, Ritchey explained due to the rates of occurrence over the last 14 days, which last week were at 73.49 per 100K and this week more than doubled to 151.6 per 100K. The indicator is met when the number of cases is over 50 per 100K, Ritchey explained.

Also important to note is that while Wyandot County certainly has fewer cases than other counties, when comparing based on population, per 100k, because Wyandot County has a population of around 21,000, the case counts are high enough to set off the indicator for high incidence.

“The high incidence cases, if you think about it, every case is worth a little more than four per 100K [population], because our population is around 21,000,” Ritchey explained. “So when you’re looking at that our incident rate for high incidence.

“If we continue to trend like we are now with the number of cases and we’ve had some additional hospitalizations there’s a good chance if we don’t see a decrease in cases that we might meet some of the other three or four indicators which would potentially change us to red.”

Some of the other indicators that would mean the county would turn red have to do with data reported to the state from health care facilities such as increased emergency room or outpatient visits for patients exhibiting signs of COVID-19 as well as an increase in hospital admissions and ICU bed occupancy numbers over a seven-day average, Ritchey explained. But the three indicators of new case increases, congregate verses non-congregate and case rates per 100K give the health department a good idea of when the county is on the edge of potentially turning red.

It should be noted for those following the daily case counts that case increases themselves in daily reports don’t necessarily mean the county is seeing huge increases on that day according to Ritchey, because the state uses onset dates for case increase data. Those who are tested and found to be asymptomatic are counted as a new case on the day the test results return, but others who have symptoms would be attributed to the day they first saw symptoms.

He noted that the increase in cases isn’t a huge surprise for those who have been monitoring surrounding counties, which saw returns to orange and red in recent weeks.

“One of the things I’ve been doing in the last few weeks is looking at the surrounding counties and when they’re seeing surges in [onset of] cases,” Ritchey said. “Pretty much in the last two weeks, three weeks, these counties [surrounding us] have all had surges where we didn’t have one, which was why we were yellow. I’m not surprised [we’re seeing a surge], we have lots of employees that work in other counties that come in, and just general travel that there’s a good chance we might be seeing increased cases — one, because we’re getting cases based on the rates in these other counties, just took us a little longer to see the effect of it. And a lot of it might be that people just aren’t protecting themselves as much as what they should be.”

To see the onset dates and information about Wyandot County and surrounding counties visit the state’s coronavirus dashboard at coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/dashboards.

The advisory system, Ritchey said, is just that: An advisory to let the public know that there are increasing risks of coronavirus spread and exposure and to indicate the continued need for safety precautions, such as limiting activities with large numbers of people.

There are no specific mandates tied to a change in color. However, in the county, the health department has, through talks with the school districts, determined that if the county goes red, the health department and school districts will be having continued serious discussions about what needs to be done for the health and safety of students and staff related to the school district itself. For some, this may mean going online and limiting extracurriculars. There is not a blanket order from the health department that would require the schools to take such action, meaning the decisions on how the schools will operate and if and how extracurriculars continue would fall mostly to the school district and board of education, aside from cases of serious outbreaks. This is due to the difference in communities associated with each school district, Ritchey said.

“From our perspective, we want the public to know, if we turn red, it’s because we are seeing a significant amount of spread in the county and we really want people to protect themselves and protect others by face masking and social distancing and things like that,” Ritchey said. “We know that there are actions that will occur as we work with schools. Some schools might go to online learning, which has a potential to affect families. As a community, we know some parents really don’t want or feel they can’t afford possibly to go to online learning because they might have to stay with their kids … based on that situation, we urge the public and those parents to do everything they can to chip in to prevent the spread of COVID. As a community, if we work together, maybe we can make it so that we have less cases.”

Ritchey said it is very important that those who are sick stay home from work, including in the time period between taking a coronavirus test and receiving results. He said this should be common practice even if a person simply has the flu, because going to work sick “isn’t doing anyone any favors.” He noted that to get a COVID-19 test in Wyandot County, a physician has to be consulted and give approval for an individual to be tested, which should mean that if a person is sick enough to get the test, they should be staying home until their results come back. Many testing sites are now seeing quicker turnaround times with the fastest test results coming back in 20-30 minutes. Other facilities still sending out tests to labs for analysis may see 24 to 72 hours for a return of results.


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