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Coronavirus hits Washington County especially hard

MARIETTA — Washington County has the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases, which officials say is mainly due to the outbreak in nursing homes, as compared to neighboring counties.

At 120 cases, Washington County has the most cases of its neighbors with Noble at six, Meigs at 10, Monroe at 8 and Morgan at six as of Friday morning. Sixty-one are confirmed in Wood County where there have been two deaths, according to the state Bureau of Public Health.

Although communities are opening back up, Sherry Ellem from the Washington County Health Department says the virus is still spreading.

“A lot of that is because of it did hit in one of our local skilled nursing facilities, the mortality rate for those who are seniors is much higher and so that is that happened here in Washington County,” Ellem said. “That population is extremely vulnerable. We all need to continue to be very cautious. It is still here and still spreading.”

After all staff and residents in nursing homes in the county were tested, Ellem said that although many of them weren’t showing symptoms, some of them still testing positive which also affected their numbers.

“When they did (the testing) many of them did not have symptoms but because they made the choices to protect all residents, a great decision, those numbers increased rapidly, that’s when we had that spike in numbers,” Ellem said.

Although that testing spiked the numbers, Ellem said that testing did not account for all of the numbers in the county.

Monroe County also had a spike in numbers because of a nursing home outbreak.

Linda Masters, administrator for the Monroe County Health Department, said their COVID-19 cases would have been lower if not for the nursing home outbreak.

“The risk is so much higher, when you’ve got people living in close contact with each other,” she said. “I feel they would be more comparable with Noble and Morgan (counties) if we hadn’t had that.”

Ellem and Masters emphasized the importance of staying diligent with testing, social distancing and sanitizing, especially with people traveling in and out of the state for vacation.

“Make sure we social distance when we come back. We’re just doing our best to try to educate people to,” Masters said.

Ellem said testing is important, but not everybody needs a test.

“We do have good testing right now. Testing is available at every level. At first they were really focused in on the vulnerable population. Everybody has access to a test right now,” Ellem said. “That test is not full proof. If I test negative today, tomorrow I may test positive because I just don’t have the infection right now. There’s a point were it’s not there and then it is there. We shouldn’t feel safe that we won’t get it.”

She recommends everyone to remain diligent on testing.

“We’ve been very proactive in slowing it down, that is the goal. It takes everybody to do that,” Ellem said.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

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