GALLIA COUNTY — The Gallia County Health Department confirmed on Tuesday the county’s first death related to COVID-19.
A statement posted to the department’s Facebook page read, “To the residents of Gallia County, we regret to inform you of the passing of our positive COVID-19 case in Gallia County. Out of respect to the family we urge you not to speculate on the identity of this individual and allow the family to grieve. This is a devastating situation and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this tragic passing. Our case investigation has been completed and all individuals who may have had contact with a positive COVID-19 case or symptomatic individuals have been notified and given instructions on isolation and quarantine. We assure all of you that a thorough case investigation has been conducted and all relevant parties have been contacted. We thank you for your continued cooperation and support.”
The Gallia case was discovered to be transmitted via community spread and not due to travel, said public health officials.
“We have strict protocols in place as far as individuals who have been suspected (of having COVID-19),” said Gallia Health Department representative Tyler Schweickart. “At this point, our emergency protocols are basically stating that if individuals are making calls to 911 or they show up to the emergency room and they’re complaining of a cough, a fever, shortness of breath, we’re immediately going into isolation protocols, per se. All individuals are being screened whenever they’re calling into 911 for possible COVID-19 symptoms.”
Schweickart said hospitals were being notified before patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms arrive so that they can adequately prepare with protective equipment.
“Everybody is wanting to know the age of the individual (Gallia’s recent COVID-19 death), were they immunocompromised or healthy,” said Schweickart. “Something we’re trying to reiterate to people and get out as much as possible and make them understand is that this information is almost irrelevant at this point. The age ranges in Ohio for (positive) COVID-19 at this point are one to 95… At this point, it can affect every age.”
Schweickart said of statistics the Gallia Health Department was receiving in regard to New York City was that a large percentage of its positive cases were documented in people between the ages of 18 and 44. The representative said that the department was hesitant to provide more details surrounding the COVID-19 death in Gallia so as to not leave area residents feeling a “false sense of security” and that even in small communities little details allow for individuals to be identified.
“We don’t want individuals to take it lightly thinking they don’t fall in an age category and are healthy so there is nothing to worry about, to ignore these stay-at-home orders because there won’t be consequences,” said Schweickart. “Even if you aren’t immunocompromised, you can still get this virus and the same consequences. There have been cases where healthy individuals have passed away from this. There are many factors that go into that, but the public is fixating on a certain age group or type of immune system. At this point, it’s irrelevant. That’s why we urge the stay-at-home orders and social distancing.”
Schweickart added that the health department also had followed its investigation to inform and identify any individuals or organizations who had been in contact with the person who had recently died due to the virus.
“Generally with travel, whenever someone goes to an area with positive cases we can tie it down to a certain area,” said Schweickart. “Community spread means the person has no travel history and, as far as we know, did not come into contact with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19. That means, as far as community spread, we’re kind of unsure where the individual contracted the virus… At this point in Ohio, it’s assumed that every region in the US has an area of community spread. (Community spread) is more so a technical term meaning the person has no travel history and come into contact with no (lab-confirmed) positive cases. We then assume they have gotten it as it spreads around the community.”
Schweickart also encouraged businesses to consider the personal risk of exposure in doing business for the employees and customers.
Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342.