After a month of rapidly increasing COVID-19 diagnoses, it seems that Athens County is slowing down, with only four new cases reported since Saturday. As of Monday afternoon there are 319 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Athens County. 110 cases are active and 208 cases are recovered, there was one death in March.

The number of recovered cases has been quickly going up. One week ago on July 21, there were 127 recovered cases and 156 active cases. Today the number of recovered cases nearly doubles the active cases.

Health Commissioner with the Athens City-County Health Department Dr. James Gaskell believes this shift is due in part to the length of time that has passed since the Fourth of July holiday.

“We experienced this minor surge within the couple of weeks of the Fourth of July,” Gaskell said. “We think there was a lot of activity that occurred on the Fourth.”

Gaskell stated that most people who contract the disease show symptoms within a week to two weeks. Being that July 4 is four weeks past, those who contracted COVID-19 from social gatherings around the holiday have had the time to recover.

Gaskell also believes that the demographic of who was being diagnosed also comes into play.

People aged 20-29 account for the largest group diagnosed with COVID-19 in Athens County. Gaskell attributes social gatherings commonly held by this age range to be sources of the outbreak. This, he believes, is because young people often “fare well” with the disease.

For this reason, many in the community are worried about Ohio University bringing back students for in-person classes this fall. Gaskell warns that if this were to occur there could likely be another surge.

“I think if OU invites 17,000 students back we will have an increase of incident of disease,” Gaskell said.

According to Gaskell the problem does not lie with the university setting as he believes OU has “great plans” for deterring the spread with socially distanced classroom setups and increased sanitization. Rather, he believes the problems will stem from parties, just as it did with July 4.

“The problem comes in the evenings with social gatherings,” Gaskell said. “At a certain tipping point, the disease will cross over into the community (from the students). I’m concerned about OU coming back with the usual complement of students, I think the smaller the number they have, the better we will be in Athens County.”

Athens County, as well as the entire state of Ohio, is currently under a mask order. Gaskell believes this is also beginning to help the numbers in Athens County.

“There’s more (people) abiding by it now than there was two weeks ago. I think that the message is starting to become clear that masking is an important part of our lives,” Gaskell said. “You should wear your mask with pride because you are helping to stop the spread of infection. You could in fact be saving a life, it may even be your own life.”

Statewide there are now 85,177 total COVID-19 cases in Ohio, and 3,344 deaths.

In Athens County there have been 26 cases aged 0-19, 215 aged 20-29, 27 aged 30-39, 14 aged 40-49, 15 aged 50-59, 15 aged 60-69, five aged 70-79, and two cases aged 80+.

In Athens County, 164 of the cases are female and 155 are male.

In the counties surrounding Athens, the confirmed cases stand at:

  • Washington – 180
  • Morgan – 16
  • Perry – 74
  • Hocking – 101
  • Vinton – 26
  • Meigs – 23

Currently, COVID-19 tests are available to those who have symptoms. A test can be ordered by a physician, at the Emergency Room, Holzer, and CVS on State Street.

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