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Jefferson County rated ‘yellow’ in Ohio’s COVID-19 alert system

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County is currently rated “yellow” under Ohio’s Public Health Advisory Alert System, Health Commissioner Nicole Balakos reports.

The yellow rating means Jefferson County meets one or less of the state’s seven COVID-19 crisis indicators: new cases per capita; sustained increase in new cases; proportion of cases that are not congregate cases; sustained increase in emergency room visits; sustained increase in outpatient visits, sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions and intensive care unit bed occupancy. Additional measurements still in development include county-level data on contact tracing, tests per capita, and percent positivity.

“We are pleased to be rated as yellow currently and want the residents to understand the implications of each color on the rating,” Health Commissioner Nicole Balakos said. “This rating will use the key indicators we have been asking residents to follow when focusing on the local assessment of risk.

Providing this transparent data to our citizens in an easy to follow format will assist folks in making informed decisions based on the current case data and how it aligns with personal risk factors. ”

Balakos said more than 60 percent of Ohioans are considered at risk.

“When you consider the demographics of Jefferson County residents relative to age and health risks such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung diseases, suppressed immunity from other disease issues, and other risk factors, our population needs data to make educated personal choices,” Balakos said. “We continue to remind people to follow hand washing, social distancing, staying home when sick, disinfection of high touch surfaces, and common public health principles.”

Balakos also said school officials “have been working hard to plan for a variety of back-to-school scenarios.”

“The employees of the health department stand ready to support them in their needs,” she added. “The back work has been done to provide information for them to return to the classroom and be prepared to do so with safe plans in place in the fall.”

Gov. Mike DeWine’s new guidelines advise school officials to “vigilantly assess symptoms, wash and sanitize hands to prevent spread, thoroughly clean and sanitize the school environment to limit spread on shared surfaces, practice social distancing, and implement a face coverings policy.” School personnel “are required to wear face masks to reduce the spread of the virus, unless it’s unsafe or if it could significantly interfere with the learning process.” DeWine said. If a face mask isn’t practical, he said face shields may be considered.

DeWine also recommended students in the third-grade and older wear masks.

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