Wednesday, August 5th, 2020
Mercer County in COVID-19 spotlight
Governor makes masks mandatory for K-12 students
By Leslie Gartrell
CELINA - Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday singled out Mercer County as having the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.
"At least for the last two weeks, the county that has the highest number per 100,000 that I think would be a shock to most people would be Mercer County," DeWine said in a news briefing.
Mercer County tops the list at 230.4 cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
"This reinforces the fact that this is a situation to be taken seriously," Mercer County Health District officials said in a news release on Tuesday. "We urge the citizens of Mercer County to take precautions to protect themselves and those around them from the spread of COVID-19.
"With a little cooperation from everyone, we can slow the spread of the virus in our community."
DeWine on Tuesday also announced that the state will order all K-12 students to wear face coverings when they return to in-person classes this fall. The mask order for students "gives us the best shot to keep Ohio's kids and educators safe and physically in school," DeWine said during Tuesday's briefing.
The exceptions to the order include children with any medical or psychological conditions such as autism that make wearing a facial covering difficult or impossible.
The state plans to deliver 2 million masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to regional education service centers, which will distribute them to schools across the state, DeWine said.
State Rep. Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield, was unhappy with DeWine's order.
"Local control is critical to the success of Ohio's schools. I am very disappointed to see the governor's one-size-fits-all policy announcements today that continue to undermine the importance of local decision-making by parents, teachers and administrators," her statement reads. "I am calling on Governor DeWine to relax this mandate and will draft legislation to address the issue if he does not reverse course."
Mercer County has seen 159 new cases since July 21, including three new cases reported by the health district on Tuesday. It has seen 529 confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
The case count in the county starting on July 1 was 271 and was 493 by July 31 - an increase of 81.9%, or 222 new cases, in the month.
Mercer County ranks fifth out of Ohio's 88 counties for cases per capita since the beginning of the pandemic. When figured for population, the county has a rate of 1,299 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The three new cases reported Tuesday involve two women, whose age ranges are 20-30 and 70-80, and a man from the age of 60-70. The women are self-isolating, and the man is hospitalized, according to the health district.
Health officials also reported 14 probable cases, 394 people who have recovered, 130 pending tests, 2,184 negative test results, six hospitalizations, 12 deaths and one probable death from COVID-19. Of the 529 confirmed cases, 122 are active.
In its first news release since Friday, the Auglaize County Health Department reported 29 confirmed and probable cases on Tuesday. Twelve involve males: one from the age of 10-20, two from 20-30, two from 30-40, two from 40-50, four from 60-70 and one from 70-80, according to the release. All are self-isolating.
The age ranges of the 17 females are one under the age of 1, one from 1-5, one from 10-20, two from 20-30, three from 30-40, two from 40-50, three from 50-60, three from 60-70 and one from 80-90. The female from the age of 1-5 is hospitalized while the others are self-isolating, according to the release.
The health department did not clarify which cases are confirmed and which are probable.
Department officials reported 226 confirmed cases, 31 probable cases, 22 hospitalizations, 114 people who have recovered and five deaths from COVID-19.
As of Tuesday evening, ODH reported 95,106 confirmed and probable cases in the state, 11,119 hospitalizations and 3,570 confirmed and probable deaths from COVID-19.