The Athens City-County Health Department confirmed today (May 19) that Athens County now has 13 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19), up from 9 as of yesterday.
There were two cases confirmed on Friday last week; one new case confirmed yesterday; and four new confirmed cases today (Tuesday). The Athens City-County Health Department said in a press release on Monday that Athens County has seen a "recent increase in COVID-19 cases over the last week."
"Testing guidelines have been expanded to allow more people to be tested," the release from the Athens City-County Health Department reads. "While many businesses are reopening with several safety protocols in place, the state’s Stay Safe order reminds Ohioans that the public’s responsibility to slow the spread is as important as it has ever been."
This news come as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine today announced that the remaining elements of Ohio's stay-at-home order – including a requirement to stay at home outside of for a limited number of purposes, and a required two-week quarantine after traveling from out-of-state – are rescinded and are now merely strong recommendations. These recommendations are now housed under an "urgent health advisory" called Ohioans Protecting Ohioans. DeWine said today that this change does not remove the prohibition on gatherings of 10 or more people.
"The order strongly recommends that high-risk Ohioans stay at home as much as possible," DeWine said on Twitter. "They should avoid places where they are likely to encounter a lot of people."
Athens County, as of Tuesday afternoon, has nine known active cases of the coronavirus, and one death attributed to the virus (that death happened in late March).
Nine cases have been confirmed since Friday, May 8, after Ohio University reported on that day that an OU employee had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Athens County’s fourth case of the coronavirus was confirmed on May 1; prior to that, the county only had three confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic, all occurring back in March.
There were 28,952 total coronavirus cases in Ohio as of Tuesday at 2 p.m., with 1,720 deaths (that’s per the CDC’s expanded definition, including all confirmed cases and “probable” cases). A total of 277,602 people have been tested as of May 19.
In Athens County as of Monday, May 18, OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital had tested 931 people (up from 658 last Monday) and Holzer Health Systems’ Urgent Care had tested 55 people in Athens County.
According to data on the Ohio Department of Health’s coronavirus website, this is what we know about the most recent cases:
• One is a woman, age 20-29, who has an onset date listed as Tuesday, May 12, 2020 ((the "onset date" is when he likely contracted COVID-19). She is not listed as hospitalized. Her case was confirmed on Tuesday.
• One is a woman, age 20-29, who has an onset date listed as Friday, May 15, 2020.
• One is a woman, age 40-49, with an onset date listed as May 12, 2020. She is not listed as hospitalized.
• One is a woman, age 40-49, with an onset date listed as May 14, 2020. She is not listed as hospitalized.
• One is a woman, age 0-19, who has an onset date listed as Friday, May 15, 2020. She is not listed as hospitalized.
• One is a man, age 20-29, with an onset date listed as May 15, 2020. He is not listed as hospitalized.
• One is a man, age 50-59, with an onset date listed as May 9, 2020. He is not listed as hospitalized.
• One is a man, age 60-69, who has an onset date listed as Tuesday, May 12, 2020. He is not listed as hospitalized.
• One is a woman, age 60-69, who has an onset date listed as April 29. She is not listed as being hospitalized.
• One is a woman, age 40-49, who has an onset date listed as May 4. She is not listed as being hospitalized.
We'll have details on all of Athens County's cases in our Thursday paper this week.
The rest of our story from last week on the OU case and other details continues below:
Gaskell said that as a result of an investigation into who the OU employee had contact with, the Department had contacted about 130 people who were near the employee, and concluded that three people were “in close enough proximity” to the person who was infected, and who will need to be quarantined for 14 days (2-14 days is the typical incubation period of COVID-19).
Gaskell said that the turn-around for testing is about 30 minutes if somebody goes to the emergency room at OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital. For somebody tested at OhioHealth’s other facilities in Athens, the turn-around is typically 24-48 hours; the same goes for somebody tested at Holzer Health Systems’ facilities, Gaskell said.
As The NEWS has previously reported, testing is not available on-demand at OhioHealth or any other local health-care agencies; people need to contact their doctor or health-care provider first, who will order a test if they believe it necessary.
The Athens City-County Health Department’s criteria for contacting those who came into contact with somebody with the coronavirus is as follows, according to a release issued Monday last week: “When someone tests positive for COVID-19, a public health nurse from the health department contacts the individual and begins a contact investigation,” the release reads. “Close contacts are those who have spent at least 10 minutes with the infected person at a distance of less than 6 feet. Those who have had minimal contact, less than 10 minutes of exposure and no physical contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, would not be considered a person under investigation. Those identified as a contact are instructed to quarantine themselves for 14 days and maintain contact with the health department.”
The OU employee who contracted the coronavirus last reported to work on OU’s Athens campus on Monday, May 4, OU confirmed in a news release issued previously.
The employee was last on campus on May 4 and is recovering at home while in quarantine, the news release said. The release reported that the employee “practiced social distancing and had limited contact with individuals” while working on campus.
This is the second case of the coronavirus confirmed so far for somebody on OU’s Athens campus. The first case was a student who had tested positive for the coronavirus after returning to Athens from a university-sponsored study-away program in late March, who returned to his home county after receiving a positive diagnosis.
“Anyone in our campus community that may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should contact their primary care provider and/or their local health department for immediate guidance,” the news release added. “If you test positive for COVID-19, you are asked to contact your local county health department. It is imperative that you follow the instructions of your medical provider and avoid situations in which you may come in contact with others."