The Williams County Health Department has reported a fourth death from COVID-19.
A woman in her 60s was the latest victim of the virus, Williams County Health Commissioner Jim Watkins confirmed late Thursday. No other identifying information was made available.
“Anytime someone passes it’s tragic, it’s unfortunate,” Watkins said. However, he added, “If you look at the counties around us, so far those numbers of deaths they’ve experienced is not what we’ve seen (in Williams County).”
As of Friday afternoon, Williams County reported 292 confirmed and probable cases and four deaths.
Henry County reported 426 cases and 17 deaths, Defiance County 425 cases and 13 deaths, Paulding County 172 cases and one death, Fulton County 451 cases and four deaths and Putnam County 821 cases and 27 deaths.
In northwest Ohio, Putnam, Lucas and Mercer counties are among 29 counties in the Level 3/Red category in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, which tracks the degree of the virus’ spread in each county based on seven key indicators, including new cases per capita, sustained increase in new cases, sustained increase in new COVID hospital admissions and intensive care unit bed occupancy numbers.
Williams, Henry, Defiance, Fulton and Paulding counties are all in the Level 2/Orange category, which indicates between 50 and 100 cases per 100,000 people.
Williams County on Thursday was at 96 cases per 100,000 population, but as of late Friday is now at 122 cases per capita (100,000 population), putting it at a “high incidence” rate (more than 100 cases per 100,000 population)
As of late Friday, Ohio reports 177,991 confirmed and probable cases and 5,054 deaths statewide.
The pandemic shows no signs of abating any time soon, according to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine
“We have 70 counties that are either Red or high incidence. That’s 10 million Ohioans or 85% of the population, living in an area with a high risk of community transmission,” DeWine said in a briefing Thursday afternoon.
DeWine also announced the state’s positivity rate as of Thursday was 5.4% and the seven-day average was 4.2%. This is up from September when the positivity rate was 2.7%. He reported that as of Thursday, Ohio has 1,042 COVID patients in hospitals, a significant increase from the 563 patients on Sept. 20.
Watkins noted many counties, including Putnam, have experienced large outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
“We’re happy we have not had any outbreaks in nursing homes as other counties have had,” he said.
In addition, Watkins lauded county schools for their proactive measures that have kept the number of COVID-19 cases low so far.
According to the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard on Friday, Williams County has eight confirmed cases in schools: Three in Bryan (one student and two staff); three in Millcreek-West Unity (one student and two staff), one student in Edgerton and one student in Montpelier.
However, Watkins told The Bryan Times late Friday that a second confirmed case was reported at Edgerton Schools late Thursday, and it appears that case has not yet been added to the ODH COVID-19 dashboard totals as of late Friday.
The most recent Edgerton case is a student, and that student has been quarantined, along with a number of others that the student has been in contact with recently, Watkins said, adding the county health department is working with Edgerton Schools on contact tracing.
Watkins said while schools have done “a really good job of preventative measures,” such as cleaning and disinfecting and mask-wearing, they also are “a reflection of the community” and vulnerable to community spread. “They don’t operate in isolation,” Watkins said.
Watkins emphasized that several recent university studies and one in Israel have shown wearing face masks and facial covering are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. He said masks are key to keeping schools and businesses open.
“Facial coverings cut down on the spread and on the incidence. It’s really, really important ... (Masks) are the best way for businesses and the public to keep the spread of the virus low so we can continue to operate,” he said.
Watkins also said studies are showing that while masks prevent transmission from wearer to the public, they also help protect the wearer from absorbing particulates from the public that transmit the virus.
“They protect others and somewhat protect the wearer,” he said.
Watkins also said it’s being shown that countries with high rates of mask-wearing have lower numbers of cases than in the U.S.
“Culturally, change is hard for (Americans), it’s hard to adjust to (wearing masks). But countries with high mask rates do better. Communities that do these things do better. All you have to do is cross the border and look at Canada,” he said.
DeWine on Thursday expressed agreement.
“The only way we can beat this virus back is to follow the prevention methods we have been talking about since the beginning of the pandemic,” DeWine said.
“Stay home when you are sick. Social distance. Wear a mask. Always.”