Richland Public Health building

Richland Public Health is located at 555 Lexington Ave. in Mansfield.

MANSFIELD -- Richland Public Health will use the $200,000 in additional CARES Act funds to cover personnel costs and testing/vaccination equipment, Commissioner Sarah Humphrey said Tuesday.

On Nov. 12, Gov. Mike DeWine said the state will disburse $30 million in federal coronavirus, offering $200,000 to each local health department, and will hire more contact tracers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor said the the state's 113 local health departments could use they money as they saw fit in the fight against the coronavirus, which continues to rage across the state.

DeWine also said contact tracers will be hired by the state as quickly as possible to “surge in” to different counties as needed.

“We’re saying today that help is on the way,” DeWine said.

As of Monday, Richland County has reported 2,432 confirmed/probable COVID-19 cases since the pandemic reached Ohio in March.

The county has seen 225 hospitalizations, including 58 currently, a record local high. Of the 225 total hospitalizations, 52 have spent time in an ICU, according to RPH health educator Reed Richmond.

The county has reported 26 deaths and 1,540 recoveries, leaving 866 active COVID-19 cases.

Like the state's 87 other counties, Richland County has seen a surge of the virus in recent weeks, reporting nearly 600 cases in the last two weeks. That's about 85 percent of the total number of cases recorded during the entire month of October.

"The $200,000 in state funds would go to pay the salaries and overtime hours of our public health nurses to initiate case investigation," Richland County Health Commissioner Sarah Humphrey said.

"We allocate money to 211 for contact tracing. We will welcome back a seasonal employee over winter break, who will help answer phones and assist the nurses in their investigation data."

Humphrey said RPH has purchased drive-thru vaccination and testing equipment. She said if COVID-19 vaccines being developed become available and need special freezer/refrigeration requirements, the funds could help with the purchase of that equipment.

"With the overwhelming cost of the pandemic response by RPH, there is little doubt that $200,000 will be consumed quickly between manpower and testing/vaccination equipment," Humphrey said.

Last week, the health commissioner said the pandemic was straining the agency's staff and resources, exceeding RPH's capability to immediately contact every person who tests positive.

Richland County has been 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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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?"