Springfield, Clark County hot spots for cases in Ohio

Clark County has more coronavirus cases per capita than Montgomery County, according to the Clark County Combined Health District.

As of Thursday, Clark County had 394 confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus - compared to Montgomery County’s 874 cases. However, Clark County has a population of around 134,000 while Montgomery County has a population of roughly 531,000.

Taking populations into account, this means a larger percentage of residents have been infected with the coronavirus in Clark County than in Montgomery County, Charles Patterson, the commissioner of the CCCHD, said.

Patterson said cases are continuing to surge throughout the county even as the State of Ohio as a whole begins to see a decrease in positive cases.

Between March 9, or the day the first case of the coronavirus was identified in Ohio, and May 11, Clark County had confirmed 98 cases of the coronavirus — between May 11 and Thursday, the county had 223 confirmed cases over the 30 day period.

“We now have a total of 321 confirmed cases,” Patterson said on Thursday. “To me, that gives a perspective. Springfield and Clark County are sort of the hot spots for cases in the state of Ohio right now and that’s not where we want to be.”

Data released by the state on Thursday show the Dayton region of the state having the highest coronavirus reproduction rate in the state. Region 3, which covers the Miami Valley and includes Clark County, has an R-naught number of 1.07, which means one person with coronavirus is on average spreading it to 1.07 people.

Region 3 is the only one in the state with an R-naught number over one. The next highest number is 0.93 in the northeast Ohio region.

Gov. Mike DeWine said on Tuesday that he and state officials are concerned about the rise in cases.

“One area that I saw start moving up was the Dayton-area. So we’re a little concerned about that,” DeWine said.

It’s hard to tell exactly what could be causing cases to rise in Clark County to rise at such a rapid clip, Patterson said, but it could be due to “COVID fatigue.”

“They are tired of wearing masks. They want things to go back to normal,” Patterson said. “But this is not the time for that.”

There have been 143 confirmed and probable cases associated with outbreaks and congregant living in the county. An outbreak is defined as two or more cases related to a specific location. As of Thursday afternoon, Patterson said that the county had a total of 396 confirmed and probable cases reported since March.

The district is actively investigating six outbreaks within the county at Southbrook Care Center (nine employees, 26 residents, two deaths, one contact), Dole Fresh Vegetables (37 employees), the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center (four employees, two contacts, one juvenile), Mercy Health — Springfield Regional Medical Center (seven employees), Victory Faith Center (13 residents) and Navistar (five employees and one contact).

MORE: Mercy Health — Springfield outbreak did not start with patient, health district says

Workplaces must follow a number of safety protocols set by the state amid the pandemic. Members of the CCCHD said they have been checking and working with local businesses to make sure they are compliant.

Patterson said the hope was to see a decrease in the number of new cases reported going into June. But that has not been the case. The goal now is to monitor the situation and see if new cases start to decline going into July as well as throughout that month.

Patterson said whether or not cases ever start falling is up to, “how the public reacts.”

“Where will we be a month from now? That’s a very good question. We would love to see cases declining but we were also hoping to see them decline in June,” Patterson said. “It has to do with how the public reacts. Are we continuing to social distance? Are we wearing a mask? Until we know the answer to those questions we just don’t know.”

It is also to early to tell what impact recent waves of protests and demonstrations centered around police brutality and racial equality will have on the number of COVID-19 cases reported in the county in the near future.

Emma Smales, spokesperson for the CCCHD, said it will likely be difficult to differentiate an uptick of cases from those that have resulted from large crowds attending protests and the general reopening of Ohio’s economy.

Businesses that were previously shuttered due to the global health crisis began to reopen in May and have continued to do so since. However, Patterson stressed that it is important for residents to continue to take steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is not a time to stop social distancing or to stop wearing a mask,” he stressed.

While cases have continued upward, the county is in a better position in terms of responding to the pandemic than it was in March, Patterson said, as they have been able to update their responses as more information about the coronavirus becomes available.

Area health care facilities that had temporarily suspended elective procedures in March due to statewide concerns regarding shortages in personal protective equipment have since started ramping back to full operations.

Opportunities for residents to be tested for the coronavirus have also been expanded and certain restrictions have been eased. Those who are interested in being tested do not need a note from a primary care physician or need to necessarily be symptomatic as was the case in the past.

Patterson said currently it is easier to catch symptomatic cases. However, those who may be asymptomatic are much harder to catch as they do not display symptoms and traditionally have not been tested. As a result, that could lead to a large spike in cases if residents let their guard down, he added.

The majority of people who have been tested throughout the pandemic have been symptomatic. Changes made to testing eligibility are designed to include more people who may be asymptomatic. It allows public health officials to catch those cases sooner.

Though it is easier for residents to get testing, those who are tested are still accessed to see if they qualify for it. Those eligible include those showing symptoms associated with the coronavirus as well as those who may have been exposed to the virus or were in situations that could have increased their potential exposure.

As testing is expanded in the area it will also lead to a somewhat artificial spike in cases, Patterson said. However, it will not have an impact on the number of people who have been hospitalized due to the coronavirus. As of Thursday afternoon, there were a total of 43 hospitalizations since March.

Some community health centers in Clark County have added drive-thru testing services in order to reach more people as well as providing easily accessible testing options.

For some of those centers, it means trying to eliminate certain barriers to health care as well as addressing segments of the population, such as African American and Latino communities, who have been disproportionately impacted by the global health crisis.

Rocking Horse Community Health Center in Springfield has added drive-thru testing for those who may currently have COVID-19 and offers those services on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

MORE: Rocking Horse takes knee to show commitment to minority health care

The New Carlisle Community Health Center will be offering drive-thru testing starting on Monday. It will be by appointment only and testing will be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

However, Patterson said those who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive should go into quarantine for a period of two weeks. If they test negative during the period, they should continue to quarantine as the coronavirus can take up to two weeks to incubate.

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321: Confirmed coronavirus cases in Clark County as of Thursday

1.07: R-naught number, or the number of people an average person with the coronavirus is spreading the virus to, of Clark County

143: Confirmed or probable cases of the coronavirus associated with an outbreak

43: Total hospitalizations for the coronavirus in Clark County since March

Source: Clark County Combined Health District

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