CIRCLEVILLE — As Pickaway County’s COVID-19 cases continue rise, officials are asking the public to remain vigilant in following recommended policies.
“Pickaway County Public Health remains very concerned about the alarming rise in cases since the beginning of October,” Adam Negley, health commissioner, said. “As of Nov. 11, Pickaway County’s seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases reached an all time high of 27 new cases per day. This is compared to an average of 2-3 cases per day in September. We are seeing significant spread within households, social gatherings and businesses where prevention measures are not implemented consistently. We have ramped up our case investigation and contact tracing resources as well as COVID-19 outreach and enforcement activities in response.”
Negley echoed Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s comments in his address to the state Wednesday evening, saying that the surge of cases was at the forefront. Currently in Pickaway County there are 189 active cases with 13 people hospitalized. One new death was reported this week.
“The big concern at the moment is the impact the surge in cases may have on staffing across the healthcare system and other essential services,” he said. “This has been the big fear all along, and is closer to reality than it has been at any other time during the pandemic.”
Darrin Flick, Pickaway County Emergency Management Agency director, said the county is still in a good position from a PPE and preparedness standpoint.
“We have plenty of PPE with additional stocks being delivered weekly,” he said. “We continue to meet regularly across EMA, fire departments, Pickaway County Public Health, OhioHealth Berger, and law enforcement to make sure that everyone is keeping abreast of any issues, but for now everyone is staying steady.”
Flick said they’re reviewing lessons learned from earlier in the year in preparation for winter.
“Now that they election is over and we are moving into the fall and winter, we are taking the time to go back through our lessons learned from the spring and summer and are updating the county emergency operations plan so that we can better respond to events like this in the future.”
Negley said doubling down on efforts to social distance and wear masks are important.
“It is critical that we all recommit to stopping the spread of the virus in Pickaway County by simply doing those simple things that we know work,” he said. “There will be a new order strengthening the requirements for everyone to wear a facial covering when in public. We know masks work because we still are not seeing school-based transmission in the classroom. It is also critical to stay away from others if you are sick or have been exposed to someone who is positive for COVID-19.”
Tim Colburn, president of OhioHealth Berger Hospital, wrote about the importance of keeping up good practices in a letter to the community.
“More important than ever is that we continue to practice social distancing and use personal protective equipment that is required to slow the spread of this virus,” he said. “We’re all tired of this. I know I am. I bet you are, too. I know it would be easy to think I’m safe because I feel well. I know it would be easy to think others are safe because they look healthy. But we continue to remind our staff that wearing masks, washing hands, and distancing saves lives. And this goes beyond the walls of our hospitals and medical practices. We’re asking (and expecting) members of our team to use these precautions while off the clock as well.”
Flick said until a vaccine is available, the best thing people can do is work to prevent cases.
“Cases are up and hospital capacity went down quite a bit this week,” Flick said. “That’s no cause for alarm but I want to reiterate that we need to do everything we can to reduce cases so that we don’t have to turn away patients from the hospital due to being over capacity. Wearing masks, hand-washing, and social distancing as much as we can until we get that vaccine.”
Colburn shared OhioHealth Berger’s standing with the increased cases and hospitalizations.
“We’re seeing record number of patients who are in our hospitals due to a positive diagnosis, and many of them are very ill,” he said. “It’s no different right here in Pickaway and surrounding counties. This is stretching us and demonstrating our ability to keep care local. I’m so proud of the work of our clinical and support teams. Our surge planning has positioned us well and has enabled us to be ready for this increase in patients. But what could challenge our ability to care for community? It’s staffing. If members of our team are ill or quarantined because of COVID-19, our ability to care for our patients becomes more challenging.”
“This is why it is so important that our team takes the responsibility of social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks even more seriously,” Colburn added. “I have asked them to role model the behaviors that will keep our community safe. I expect them to lead the way in wearing masks and making decisions that are sometimes very hard.”
When it comes to those decisions, Colburn shared some that he and his family have made.
“My family is changing traditions in order to keep everyone safe,” Colburn said. “We are encouraging our physicians and associates to do the same to limit exposure and potential spread of this virus. My family is not gathering in large groups for football games or tailgates. We are making new plans for Thanksgiving. My family is the most important thing in my life. And this year, I’m focused on keeping them safe.”
Negley said there is positive news on the vaccine front.
“We are encouraged about the news on the effectiveness of the potential vaccine candidates,” he said. “We have been working closely with the Ohio Department of Health and our partners in Pickaway County to ensure that once a vaccine is available, we will be able to get it out quickly and efficiently.”
In the meantime, Colburn said he and OhioHealth Berger are doing all they can to help the community stay well and be prepared.
“I’ll conclude this note by committing to you that I am doing all I can to help our community stay well. And I’m asking the same of our team here at Berger. We are prepared. We’re ready to provide the care our community needs — even as this pandemic continues and the number of local cases increases. As the leader of OhioHealth Berger, I’ve been talking with my team about this every day. I hope you’ve been doing the same with your families and friends.”