SCIOTO — Just two weeks ago, the Portsmouth City and Scioto County Health Departments reported its largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases.
That jump of 157 cases Dec. 11 brought the county’s cumulative total to more than 3,000 since the beginning of the pandemic and came after a similarly large increase of 130 the prior day.
Spikes of this magnitude often indicate a clearing of a backlog in tests, but still concerning said PCHD Epidemiologist Molly Davis. That concern was shared by many in the community, some fearing that cases would reach towering heights.
Those fears did not and have not become reality where instead the daily cases have actually plummeted, reaching as low as 30 cases Dec. 15 and 22 and 28 Sunday.
Davis, encouraged by this trend, could not say exactly why it was happening but speculated a shift in mindset for many in the community when COVID-19 numbers were spiking.
“Because more people were getting sick, more people are willing to adhere to guidance and do what they need to do to not get it,” she said, the county remaining at Level Three or “Red” on the Ohio Department of Health’s Public Health Advisory System. “The threat is much more real now.”
School closures before the holiday break might also be contributing, she said, where some working parents also returned home to keep an eye on their children.
The latest figures from the Ohio Department of Health show a cumulative total of 305 children under the age of 18, or roughly 2% of the age range, in the county with the coronavirus. As followed by the state, those numbers have faltered on a weekly basis since early December, transitions to online learning perhaps responsible.
ODH’s database for school-reported cases shows 23 new cases for students and staff as of Dec. 24, bringing the cumulative total to 280.
Meeting two of the seven indicators last week, Scioto has met new cases per capita and non-congregate cases minimums but has been improving in those measures. Over the past two weeks, the county’s new cases measure was 790.03 per 100,000, much higher than the Level Two standard of 100 per 100,000 but better than the prior week’s 978.51 per 100,000.
Other indicators- new cases increase, emergency department visits, outpatient visits, hospital admissions and ICU bed occupancy- have also been trending down.
The Southern Ohio Medical Center, along with other hospitals in the region, has been reporting decreases in hospitalizations. As of Dec. 28, the Scioto Emergency Management Agency reports 86 Covid hospitalizations and 11 patients in the ICU from hospitals in Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton counties.
Just 12 days prior, there were 144 hospitalized and 27 patients in the ICU.
Even with vaccines arriving in the county Monday, administered both at the PCHD building and SOMC, and more set to come this week, the Scioto County Commissioners said the threat of the virus is still very much real and asked for vigilance and compliance during the upcoming months.
“Our hearts break for these families and those who have lost loved ones elsewhere. We must remain vigilant and keep working to reduce the spread. Socially distance, wear a mask and wash your hands often,” reads the Commissioners’ Facebook post, where 25 deaths and 93 hospitalizations have been recorded in December. “Avoid large gatherings and do your part to slow the spread.”
The vaccines are believed to be the path to normalcy by public health experts in the long run, but precautions in the meantime are the best way to avoid a post-holiday escalation.
This portion is more than double the state average of 0.44%, where 51,716 have started the process, and Scioto has the 3rd-highest share behind Erie and Gallia counties. The state’s most populated counties- Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton- have conducted 32% of the vaccines so far.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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