Historic Fort Steuben concert season cut short

STEUBENVILLE — Amid growing concern over the uptick in COVID-19 cases locally, Historic Fort Steuben has pulled the plug on its Summer Concert Series for 2020.

Historic Fort Steuben President and Steubenville Mayor Jerry Barilla said it’s the last thing he wanted to have to do — but with Jefferson County posting its largest seven-day increase in cases, it was the responsible thing to do.

As of Monday, Jefferson County had 45 active coronavirus cases, with 81 recovered and two deaths.

The decision comes at the midpoint of the virus-shortened 2020 concert season.

“Due to the spike in positive cases, we felt we had to err on the side of the safety, health and well-being of the citizens who come to our concerts,” Barilla said, calling it a “solid, practical decision.”

“With the mix of concert-goers we get — elderly and, of course, the young, the virus is hitting both ends of that spectrum. It just makes sense that we should be more responsible to the citizens, to our fans and supporters. Their health and well-being is more important than the concert.”

Health Commissioner Nicole Balakos agreed, pointing out she’s getting reports of large groups of young people “congregating in large clusters with people outside of their immediate social circle.”

“These large parties and gatherings are not wise in controlling the spread of COVID-19,” Balakos said. “Though we are not advocating a lockdown, we do strongly encourage folks to plan their social visits only with people who they know well and could easily contact in the event of receiving a positive test result.”

Balakos said expanding social circles too wide at the moment “is not conducive to the spirit” of the state guidelines.

“Mass gatherings are still limited to 10, per the statewide orders,” she said, though pointing out there are several exemptions. “We are waiting for more clarity and condensing of the orders in the future. The current orders do not expire unless revoked by the (state) director or the State of Emergency in Ohio is lifted.”

Balakos said if Jefferson County continues to see the kind of increases that it experienced over the last week — the numbers went from 88 cases on July 6 to 128 Monday — it “could raise our risk level from yellow to orange if we have successive weeks of increases.”

“Though our age range today is skewing toward younger patients than in the spring, those young patients can have complications also,” she said. “Of particular concern is the ability of young patients to spread the disease for days in advance of diagnosis. Patients are deemed contagious two days prior to symptom onset. As we have been telling people, though 80 percent of those diagnosed have mild to moderate cases, they are communicable. The risk of transmission from those patients is concerning as they (may not recognize) they have symptoms when they are mild cases. Fever is often not showing up in the mild to moderate cases at all.”

Balakos said young patients locally have been reporting fatigue, congestion/runny nose, headache, diarrhea and cough as the more common presenting symptoms.

“Additional symptoms include fever, chills, muscle/body aches, new loss of taste/smell, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, and a sore throat,” she added. “Someone who reports these symptoms should consult their primary care physician. If these symptoms are present in addition to confirmed contact with a positive patient, testing may be warranted.”

Balakos said if you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, “Typically, symptoms may appear in the first two to five days, with two to 12 days being a common window of incubation. By 14 days post-exposure, if the person has not developed symptoms, the likelihood is significantly diminished and they are released from quarantine,” she said.

Barilla, meanwhile, said they’re hoping the concert series can return in 2021.

“It’s sad we had to do this,” he said. “People want something to do after being locked down for months. They want the feeling of being outside, getting back to a sense of normalcy.”


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