DARKE COUNTY — As Darke County schools prepare to open next week, there is genuine concern among many educators and parents about the COVID-19 risk faced by both students and staff. But is it something about which to be panicked?
Panicked? Of course not. But Dr. Terry Holman, Darke County Health Commissioner, said we should expect there to be an upsurge in COVID-19 cases when students return to class.
“As we open schools up, my expectation is the numbers will go up,” he told The Daily Advocate.
However, Holman said the upsurge can be mitigated by preventive measures, primarily, washing hands, wearing a mask, and keeping an adequate distance from others.
“When things get opened up, there is an increase in cases, then it goes right back down. There is a causal relationship there,” he said. “If you practice all the preventive measures, it goes down again.”
Though the county has seen a total of 633 cases — and among these 36 confirmed or probable COVID-19 deaths as of September 2 — all of those who died were at least 60 years of age or older. Further, all of the confirmed and probable deaths were patients or residents in long-term care facilities.
“Residential long-term care seems to be the hardest hit. All the deaths currently are from long-term care residents,” said Holman. “There has been no community spread cases that have deaths yet that I’m aware of.”
According to the most recent statistics provided by the Darke County General Health District, the age breakdown of confirmed and probable deaths in the county shows one death among those 60-to-69 years of age; six deaths with one probable death in the 70-to-79 age bracket; 17 deaths with one probable among 80-to-89 year olds; six deaths with two probable in the 90-to-99 age bracket; and one death of someone 100 years or older.
This comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that shows 94 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the United States had “underlying medical conditions” or “contributing conditions,” with 6 percent of the deaths attributed to complications of COVID only.
According to Holman, with a population of approximately 51,000, Darke County has only seen an overall contraction rate of 1.2 percent — low in comparison to some other areas.
There is hope also that recent large gatherings have not shown there to be a significantly higher rate of contraction locally. Holman said the recently completed Darke County Jr. Fair did not show any upsurge in cases.
“We really we can’t attribute any increases to events here,” he said. “A week out from the fair, and I’ve seen one probable case so far.”
Nonetheless, Holman continues to urge preventive measures for now and in the future.
“COVID is real, it’s not going to go away,” he said. “It’s endemic — ever present. Beyond the initial spread, it is something that’s going to be there constantly, like the flu.”
He further warned, “We don’t know all the consequences of COVID either. There may be some lingering consequences which could potentially be considered serious if found to be part of the COVID syndrome.”