CCHD: County’s COVID-19 cases surging, top 1,000; case investigation, contact tracing to be prioritized; CMH prepared


By Tom Barr - tbarr@wnewsj.com



WILMINGTON — The number of new COVID-19 cases in Ohio and Clinton County continues to increase at an exponential rate.

The Clinton County Health District reported, as of Thursday, the county reached and exceeded its 1,000th case, ending the day at 1,013 — with many more cases to be investigated.

According to a news release from Clinton County Health Commissioner Pamela Walker-Bauer on Friday, there are thousands of cases in Ohio pending review by Ohio Department of Health epidemiologists — including over 100 in Clinton County alone — making information on the Ohio Dashboard Data incomplete.

On Oct. 1, Clinton County had 42 known active cases. In comparison, there are currently over 400 known active cases, Walker-Bauer said. On Oct. 1, CCHD disease investigators were interviewing, on average, five cases per day.

Since Friday, Nov. 13, CCHD disease investigators are now interviewing over 40 cases per day.

“Staffing has been expanded from four individuals conducting both disease investigation and contact tracing to seven disease investigators and four contact tracers,” stated Walker-Bauer. “The extra staffing is being currently supported by internal staff members from other CCHD programs areas including: Administration, Environmental Health programming, Health Education, Home Visiting programming, Vital Statistics and WIC programming.

“Several Environmental Health inspection programs have been suspended with the exception of those involving business commerce activities including plumbing, home sewage systems and private drinking water.”

CCHD Director of Nursing Monica Wood said, “It has been our goal to begin disease investigations and contact tracing within 24 hours of each new case being reported to the CCHD. This alarming growth in new case investigations make this goal no longer achievable, nor sustainable by our team.”

The CCHD has attempted to call every case for a telephone interview, said Walker-Bauer.

“Many calls go unanswered and unreturned, creating a backlog in investigations,” she said. “Several calls are attempted and when calls are answered or returned, each case requires a significant amount of time to interview and identify close contacts.

“The CCHD is beginning new disease investigation and contact tracing protocols effective immediately,” said Walker-Bauer. “We will now prioritize investigations via phone to age 65 and older, age 25 and younger, and to those in high risk congregate settings.”

She added, “All other confirmed cases will be mailed letters informing them of their positive results, what to do because of this positive result, and an electronic survey link with disease investigation questions including types of symptoms along with names and contact information for their close contacts.”

Walker-Bauer also stated that the CCHD closed its office to the public Friday to focus on the disease investigation and contact tracing.

CMH prepared

Matt Gunderman, RN, MSN, EMT-P, Clinton Memorial Hospital Senior Director of Emergency, Cardiac, IR & Radiology Services, told the News Journal Friday, “We are working closely with the Clinton County Health District, Ohio Department of Health, and our partners in providing care throughout the region to ensure we are well-coordinated in meeting the varied and vital health needs of our patients.

“As reported by ODH, cases of COVID-19 have increased rapidly statewide and in Clinton County in the last several weeks. With the documented increase in confirmed positive cases, hospitals in our region continue to see an increase in hospitalizations.

“We monitor hospital capacity within every department each day, closely tracking fluctuations in emergency, acute and critical care areas and regularly reporting our capacity in these areas to the state and federal government.

“At this time, our hospital has adequate capacity to meet patient needs, including in critical care.”

Gunderman added, “We ask that community members do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our community – particularly during the holidays – by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, and avoiding gatherings.

“We also want to remind community members to not put off the care they need during the pandemic. We have procedures in place to ensure that it is safe to come to our hospital should you or your family need care.”

What can you do to help?

The Clinton County Health District recommends:

• Stay home when sick.

• Quarantine yourself if you have been around someone who has tested positive.

• Wear a face covering in public and when not with members of your household.

• Avoid large gatherings.

• Physical distance at least 6 feet from others.

• Limit contact with people outside of your household.

If you are tested and receive a positive result:

• Isolate yourself in your home, away from others, as much as possible, for at least 10 days from the start of your symptoms.

• Notify each person that you have had direct contact with (defined as someone within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period) and ask them to quarantine in their house for 14 days after their potential exposure occurred.

For more info:

• Visit the CDC website for the most current list of COVID-19 symptoms at: https://bit.ly/2T3UKND

• Ohio also has a coronavirus call center to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634.

• For more information on COVID-19 resources in Clinton County, visit the information hub: www.covidcc.com and for the latest updates, follow the CCHD on its social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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By Tom Barr

tbarr@wnewsj.com