(Posted Dec. 24, 2020)
With the expected increase in COVID-19 cases across Ohio following the holidays, Madison County Health Commissioner Chris Cook has extended two public health advisories and one public health order until the end of January.
A public health advisory was issued on Dec. 2 to all schools in Madison County, recommending that they close their school buildings until Jan. 1, 2021. Schools that open must meet the six-foot social distancing rule between students and staff not of the same household and follow all other local and state safety operational guidelines. This advisory and safety guidelines have been extended until Jan. 31, 2021.
Another public health advisory was issued on Dec. 2 to all schools, sports teams, and related organizations in Madison County, recommending that they suspend all school sports, club sports, travel sports, league sports, school extracurriculars, and school activities until Jan. 1, 2021. Sports and extracurriculars that continue must meet all local and state safety operational guidelines. This advisory has also been extended until Jan. 31, 2021.
The order suspending all community festivals, events, and gatherings until Jan. 1 has been extended to Jan. 31.
Madison County remains at Level 3 (red) and continues to experience high incidence of COVID-19 spread on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System (OPHAS). On Dec. 3, the county was placed on the watch list for escalating to Level 4 (purple) for one week. According to Cook, COVID-19 cases peaked in Madison County on Dec. 9.
“This was two weeks after students were last exposed to each other in school and also two weeks after Thanksgiving. We expected that peak,” he said.
Since that time cases have decreased. “We’ve seen a 15 percent decrease in the number of new cases. It’s still very high, but we aren’t currently seeing that day-after-day exponential growth that pushed us to the brink of Level 4,” Cook said.
He noted that many factors may be contributing to the current leveling-off of cases, but it was clear to him that something made a difference.
“I believe our population-based decisions are partially responsible,” he said of the decrease in cases following the advisories and orders he and the Board of Health put in place.
“We knew that interventions were needed. We had the highest case incidence in our region. Now we are sixth among our neighbors in case incidence. With the help of our residents, we changed where we were headed,” Cook said.
If history repeats itself following the winter holidays in Ohio, there will be a surge in cases for several weeks into the new year. Cook said that having vaccine is a powerful tool against COVID-19, but it will not make a significant difference for several more months.
“This fight isn’t over. I know we are all tired, but we need to keep pushing forward by wearing masks, distancing, and not gathering with people outside our households,” he said.