Richland Public Health building

Richland Public Health is located at 555 Lexington Ave. in Mansfield. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD -- The rapidly rising spike in COVID-19 cases has "exceeded the capability" of public officials to immediately contact every person who tests positive, according to Richland Public Health Commissioner Sarah Humphrey.

Richland County and Ohio are experiencing an "unprecedented surge" in coronavirus cases, unlike anything yet reported during the pandemic, which reached Ohio in March, according to the local health commissioner.

Richland County has been ranked "red," or level three, for seven straight weeks in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, indicating "very high exposure and continuing spread of COVID-19," Humphrey said.

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Cases per day 111320

As of Thursday, 77 percent of the state's 88 counties were rated as "red." The number of hospitalization admissions and use of ICU units were also on the rise around Ohio.

On Friday, the state reported another new 24-hour record of positive tests -- 8,071. That's almost double the most recent 21-day average. Ohio also reported 42 additional deaths and 298 new hospitalizations.

The percentage of positive tests also continues to climb. It was under 3 percent in late September and was almost 13 percent on Nov. 11.

Richland County again increased its high incidence designation Thursday, reporting more than 355 positive coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents with 431 new cases over the past two weeks.

The number of positive tests per capita in the county have soared for the past weeks according to the Ohio Dept. of Health website -- from 91.62 per 100,000 residents on Oct. 15; to 130.41 on Oct. 22; to 195.62 on Oct. 29 and to 296.31 on Nov. 5.

Under Centers for Disease Control guidelines, any county with a per capita rest rate of more than 100 per 100,000 residents is considered to be "high incidence" for the virus. As of Thursday, each of Ohio's 88 counties is considered "high incidence."

Humphrey on Friday called on all citizens to help in efforts to control the spread throughout the community.

“With the amount of spread happening in the state right now, public health need has exceeded the available manpower to call every positive case immediately and walk them through the protocols they should be following,” Humphrey said.

“We need citizens to be proactive and informed on their own. If you’ve tested positive, have symptoms, or think you’ve been in contact with a positive case, please stay home," she said.

"Take personal responsibility to not expose your friends or co-workers, even if you have tested and are awaiting your results. The virus travels through sharing breathing space with other people and the only way the pandemic will end is to stop allowing the virus to pass from one to another," Humphrey said.

She said people who have received a positive test result from their doctor should not wait for public health to call before beginning isolation and contacting those who to whom they may have exposed to the virus.

Humphrey asked residents to think about who they were in close contact within the 48 hours before symptoms started. Those are the people that should be notified of exposure, she said.

"If you are not comfortable doing this, call the health department and the call to contacts can be made confidentially," she said.

In related COVID-19 news, outbreaks of the virus at local nursing homes were reported on the ODH website. As of Thursday, 11 residents and two staff members at the Crestwood Care Center had currently tested positive. At Mansfield Memorial Homes, the ODH reported six residents and three staff members had current positive tests.

Richland Public Health has a website for additional information on what to do after testing positive or if they think you’ve been exposed. See: richlandhealth.org/quarantining.

Humphrey listed give things residents who are sick, or have been exposed, to do:

-- Keep your distance. Stay in your bedroom and use a bathroom separate from the one used by other members of your household, if possible. Wear a face mask when around others and try to stay at least six feet away. Have someone else in the home prepare meals and leave them outside your bedroom. Don’t share bedding, towels, dishes, or water bottles with others. If something is shared, wash it with soap and water before each use by a separate person.

-- Do not leave your home (unless necessary for medical care). Ask family, friends, or community groups to help with needs by leaving supplies outside your door.

-- Limit visitors to those who are necessary. Have them wash their hands when they enter and leave; wear a face mask and stay at least six feet away. If they have symptoms of fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, ask them not to come.

-- Wipe down high-touch areas every day with a disinfectant. This includes doorknobs; light switches; phones; remote controls; appliance, sink, toilet, and cabinet handles; countertops, etc.

-- Limit contact with pets. If you do interact with pets, wear a facemask, and wash your hands before and after.

She said there are ways to prevent COVID-19:

-- Stay home if you’re sick, even with mild symptoms

-- Be mindful in your interactions with others. Limit your chances of exposure by maintaining social distancing of at least six feet from non-household members

-- Wear a mask in public

-- Consider necessary travel only

-- Follow good hygiene standards, including washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; using hand sanitizer frequently; avoiding touching your face; and covering coughs and sneezes

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"