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Harrison County has Ohio’s second-lowest COVID count

CADIZ — All too often, communities in the Ohio Valley rank near the bottom of state and national trends — but every once in a while, that’s a good place to be.

Although Harrison County’s COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in the past few weeks, the county still has the second lowest number of infections in the state.

In cases per county, Harrison County is ranked 87 out of the 88 counties in Ohio. No. 88, Vinton County, has had fewer than 10 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Garen Rhome, administrator of the Harrison County Health Department, said he hopes his county will remain in that low position.

“We do hope that we’ll stay at the bottom, near the bottom of that list, as well as the per capita list. I think it’s important that we recognize and understand all these mitigation efforts will continue to keep us at those lower levels on any of those types of lists,” he said.

The county is also in the bottom 10 counties in terms of coronavirus case rates per capita. One of the biggest factors in the county’s low numbers could be its low population of 15,040 residents. Rhome said the county has the fifth smallest population in the state.

“There’s definitely a correlation in having a lower population and having a lower number of cumulative cases,” he said, noting the county is more rural with natural social distancing which may have aided in keeping COVID numbers low.

“We’re more spread out. In Harrison County there’s not a lot of apartment buildings and things like that, and we don’t have a lot of things outside of our work that requires people to be really close to each other,” he said.

Rhome said the county needs more community advocates to encourage others to follow the mitigation efforts to keep the county’s numbers low.

“We need resident advocates to talk to their friends, talk to their family. We need the residents that do the mitigation efforts, that do the social distancing, the mask wearing when they’re out in public, that wash their hands and take extra care while they’re at work, we need them — our residents — to be advocates to their friends and family that aren’t quite on board with the mitigation efforts,” he said.

The county needs a community response in order to decrease the spread of the virus.

“This is not a government response, this is something we need every resident, every citizen to help navigate and influence each other so we can keep those numbers low,” he said.

As of Monday, the county has a total of 278 confirmed cases, 142 recoveries and four deceased. There are currently 132 active cases in the county.

The county’s active cases have nearly doubled in the past week. Rhome said the spread is throughout the county and due to community spread. Some of this spread is attributed to gatherings. He specified that gatherings does not just mean parties with large groups of people, it means any sort of meeting and close contact with those outside of your immediate household circle.

“We’re talking about simple things like going over to watch the game with a couple of friends or just popping by to drop a few things off but staying and hanging out too close,” he said. “We talk about gatherings and sometimes people think we’re talking about parties, showers or birthday parties, but we’re really talking about small day-to-day events where you let your guard down.”

The health department recommends residents continue mitigation efforts and reduce the numbers of close contacts to help slow the spread.

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