Spike in county COVID-19 cases linked to jail

By Alberta Stojkovic - The Sentinel

MOUNT GILEAD — Morrow County Health District Commissioner Stephanie Bragg and County Emergency Management Director John Harsch updated county officials on the latest COVID-19 numbers at their Monday meeting.

Bragg noted the large rise in cases in from April 23 when 26 cases were reported to Friday, May 1, when 85 cases were reported. By Monday, May 4, the number rose to 86.

She said that 50 cases were reported at the Morrow County Correctional Facility, which houses 79 inmates.

The Morrow County Health Department updates the numbers daily on its Facebook page. Of 86 cases reported in Morrow County, 79 were confirmed for the virus with seven probable. Five were hospitalized; 73 were males and 13 females.

Bragg has confidence that Sheriff John Hinton and jail staff are following protocol and are working closely with the health department. Both prisoners and employees are provided with masks and protective gear. There is also a disinfecting of the facility several times a day and use of hand sanitizers and disinfectants.

Prisoners with COVID-19 are being separated from those who are ill and are receiving medical attention. None have been hospitalized.

As is the protocol for communicable disease reporting, no other identifying details regarding these individual cases will be released from either agency, according to a joint news release issued last week.

Harsch described how jail employees remove their uniforms as they leave work and have them laundered right there at the jail. A washer and dryer have been provided by Whirlpool’s Marion plant.

“One good thing about this crisis is that all county agencies have been working together,” Bragg said. “Everyone is cooperating and helping each other.”

Bragg said she is also working on a list of the new protocols from the state health director. One directive is that all employees who work with the public must wear masks. Some directions in the new protocols will be on a case-by-case basis.

For example, campgrounds will be open for camper property owners, but not for weekend campers. Heartland Retreat won’t be open due to large groups who meet there.

Harsch said there is good information for businesses re-opening on www.coronavirus.gov/restartohio.

He reported that 1,700 masks were donated by the Ford Company and sent through the state for Morrow County’s use. He said the priority for their use is for health care workers and first responders.

He has also given some back to local dentists and veterinarians who donated from their supplies at the beginning of the pandemic. He thanked Snuggled in Hope quilters for donating masks for health workers and rest home workers.

Morrow County Hospital has tested over 114 individuals for COVID-19, according to CJ Miller, President and CEO.

“We have been performing those tests since April 17, 2020, while all prior test were collected at Morrow County Hospital and sent out to ODH or external lab for processing. We have resumed elective procedures as of today May 4, with strict guidelines to follow Governor DeWine and Dr. (Amy) Acton’s order,” he said.

Miller added, “We continue to have a strong focus on patient, associate and community safety and therefore require screenings, wearing face coverings, limiting visitor access to the hospital, maintaining social distancing, and more. Although we are starting to perform elective outpatient procedures, it is not business as usual as we focus on keeping everyone safe while meeting the healthcare needs of our community.”


By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel