| Mansfield News Journal
MANSFIELD – As cold weather begins to set in, Richland County recorded nearly 300 coronavirus cases in September — its highest monthly total since the pandemic began.
According to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), 293 people in Richland County either received a positive test result or first reported symptoms in September, compared to 146 in August — an increase of just over 100%.
Hospitalizations increased as well. Forty-two people in Richland County were hospitalized in September for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, compared to 22 in August, according to the ODH.
The News Journal, using the state’s summary data, looked at the number of new cases by date of “illness onset” — that’s usually the day someone took a coronavirus test, received a positive test result or when a person first reported symptoms. It’s believed to be a date closer to infection, as sometimes cases are reported days after someone started feeling sick.
Men outnumbered women by a margin of two-to-one for infections. Nearly half of 201 infections among men came from those between the ages of 30 and 39, and 50 and 59.
The vast majority of men admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 (29) are between the ages of 50 and 79, while only four women, all older than 80-years-old, were hospitalized, according to illness onset data.
As of Monday, Richland County had 1,029 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, joining 28 other counties with tallies above 1,000.
Richland County is on the cusp of becoming the first county to turn “purple,” or the highest level on the state’s public health advisory system
Richland County received a warning last week after it triggered six of the system’s seven indicators. If six or seven are triggered Thursday, the county will move to “purple.” At that level, Richland County would have severe exposure and spread and stay-at-home orders would be issued, according to Reed Richmond, spokesman at Richland Public Health, who noted last week that orders wouldn’t mean businesses would close.
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In an email, he attributed the monthly spike to not just the recent outbreak among inmates and staff at Richland Correctional Institution (RiCI), but to general fatigue in following guidelines, large family gatherings and parties.
“We are seeing an uptick in family spread,” he said. “It’s one thing if it’s your own family. But when you throw Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty into the mix and daughter Judy’s boyfriend, and cousin Jim and his daughter and son-in-law, then things get a bit more dicey. You have no idea where all those people have been. And then no one is wearing masks or socially distancing at the gatherings.”
Richmond said large social events also can be tied to the rise in cases last month.
“During this weekend — when we all knew Richland County was on the cusp of being purple — we opened haunted houses, had food truck gatherings, had the annual Prairie Peddler in Butler, a large community event in downtown Bellville and several communities that insisted on having Homecoming events,” he said.
He and Richland Public Health officials continue to stress that people need to wear masks, wash their hands, practice social distancing and above all, avoid large gatherings.
More: 48 RiCI inmates have COVID-19, up from 28 last week
It’s worth noting that inmates, whether housed at RiCI or Mansfield Correctional Institution, do not count toward determining what level the county is for the state’s color-coded alert system. But they are included in the county’s tally.
As of Monday, 79 inmates at RiCI are positive for COVID-19, a 65% increase from Sept. 29. Seventy-nine staff members at the prison have tested positive since the pandemic began.
Jackie Borchardt of The Cincinnati Enquirer, a sister paper to the News Journal, contributed to this report.