(Dover, Ohio) – Tuscarawas County is currently at the forefront in the State of Ohio of a potential growing crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Health Commissioners from the New Philadelphia City Health Department and the Tuscarawas County Health Department are making a critical plea for help from the community to strictly adhere to well-established safety guidelines to assist in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
With the county being only one of two in Ohio designated today at “Watch List” status under Risk Level 3/Red in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, now is the time to act. If the spread of COVID-19 is not reduced and other improvements are not recorded by the middle of next week, Tuscarawas County could be elevated to the most severe status listing of Risk Level 4/Purple in the advisory system.
“We cannot stress enough how critical of a stage we are in right now,” explained Katie Seward, Tuscarawas County Health Commissioner. “To prevent further spread, we are asking residents to shelter at home as much as possible and only go out for work, school, and essential errands. We knew that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations had the potential to increase significantly, but we’re in unchartered territory as we receive an average of 70 to 100 new positive cases daily.”
With the surge in local cases, the health departments have been advised by the Ohio Department of Health to prioritize COVID-19 response activities. Specifically, due to the exceptionally high volume of cases, contact tracers from the health departments will only be able to contact people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Notifications of close contacts will not be possible at the current time. The health departments are asking for patience from the community, and they will be asking residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their family members to personally inform their close contacts to ask them to quarantine. Additionally, schools and employers are being asked to assist with close contact notifications.
Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are being asked to be patient and isolate themselves at home and separate from other household members if possible. It can take the health department up to 4 days to receive a confirmed lab report. This is due to laboratory back up, out-of-state lab reporting, and many other factors. Household members should stay home during this time also. Health Department staff members will call positive cases as soon as possible.
“We really appreciate the community’s support and help during this time,” noted Vickie Ionno, Health Commissioner for the New Philadelphia City Health Department. “Our staff is overwhelmed and struggling to keep up. We are doing our best, and we look forward to the community stepping up to help.”
Additionally, Ionno and Seward are recommending that community members take the following actions whenever possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19:
• Shelter at home as much as possible. Only go out for necessary supplies, essential work, school, medications, or for healthcare services.
• Stay home if you are sick, even if your symptoms seem minor.
• Work from home whenever possible.
• Avoid contact with people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (older individuals, pregnant mothers, those with chronic conditions, etc.).
• Avoid gatherings of persons who live outside your household.
• Continue to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols to wear facial coverings, socially distance, wash hands frequently, and clean high-touch surfaces often.
“We do not recommend that quarantined individuals be permitted to work outside of their own homes unless that worker is absolutely essential to the workplace, such as in the case of a healthcare worker who can care for patients while wearing full PPE to prevent exposure,” stressed Seward.
Community members who have general questions regarding COVID-19 are urged to call the Ohio Department of Health’s call center at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH between 9 am and 8 pm daily, including weekends. Plans are being made to open a local call center in the near future.
“We sincerely appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding during this unprecedented time,” said Seward. “When we all pull together, we can help prevent the spread of this virus and protect our loved ones, friends, and neighbors. Following the safety guidelines helps us continue to keep our schools open and our economy running.”