Stark County monitoring community spread COVID-19 case

Posted at 8:54 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 20:54:55-04

CANTON, Ohio — Stark County health officials continue to investigate Ohio's first diagnosed case of the coronavirus through community spread, which has resulted in quarantines for several people.

A 53-year-old Stark County resident remains in isolation at Mercy Medical Center. At a news conference Wednesday, officials said the man is doing well, but did not release any details on his symptoms, citing privacy concerns.

Another positive coronavirus case-- suspected trough community spread-- was reported in Trumbull County on Thursday.

Those investigating the Stark County case do not believe the man traveled to any countries that experienced a COVID-19 outbreak or knowingly came into contact with someone who has the virus, making his infection a suspected case of community spread.

"Community spread is when you don't know where or how you may have gotten it," said. Dr. William Brien from University Hospitals.

Doctors across Ohio suspect there could be a high number of people who have the virus, but don't realize it. That unknown is a major factor in Governor Mike DeWine's decision making this week, which included shutting down all schools for three weeks.

"We definitely expect to see more cases and I think the cases will increase dramatically because that's the way outbreaks work," said Jim Adams, the Canton City Health Commissioner.

Adams said less than a dozen people who had recent contact with the 53-year-old man are now in a 14-day quarantine.

That includes a Perry High School student. The school stayed open on Thursday after discussing the matter with health officials.

In a letter to families, Superintendent Scott Beatty said there were heightened cleaning regimens in classrooms and common areas across the district.

With news on the spreading virus seemingly changing by the hour, workers at both the the Canton and Stark County Health Departments have been scrambling to get the latest information to help protect the public, while checking to see if others in the community should be isolated.

At the same time, they're reminding people to stay calm.

"The virus does not work around the corner. It's not waiting to jump out at you from behind a tree or something like that. It's from close, personal contact," Adams said.

Brien stressed as the worry about community spread continues, it's critically important for people to practice common sense hygiene.

"Soap and water for 20 seconds is the most effective way to prevent the spread from your hands to other people," he said.