Numerous aspects of daily life have been impacted this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, from stay-at-home orders and curfews to the way students attend school, businesses conduct their operations, individuals dine out at restaurants, worship at local churches, and gather with loved ones during the holidays and other special occasions.
Logan County residents have experienced these life-altering changes alongside their peers and neighbors in the rest of the nation and the world. At the same time, local community members have pulled together to care for loved ones who have fallen ill with the virus, created special gifts and messages for nursing home residents who haven’t been allowed in-person visitors and created signs expressing appreciation to first responders and placing them in windows and posting on social media.
Area residents have taken meals and thank you cards to medical staff at Mary Rutan Hospital throughout the pandemic, and during the spring when personal protective equipment was in short supply, took on a concerted efforts to sew face masks for area medical facilities and patients. Local manufacturing facilities also have joined the cause, altering their usual production schedules and using their engineering expertise to create face shields and other PPE and medical equipment needed in the coronavirus fight.
COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, is an upper respiratory tract disease caused by one of the seven coronaviruses known to infect humans. It was first identified in humans in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019, Logan County Health Commissioner Dr. Boyd Hoddinott reported to the board of health during their March 11 meeting, at a time when the virus was not yet observed in the county, but the Ohio Department of Health was first reporting instances of community spread in the state.
“This requires us to all step up, and use multiple public health interventions to keep the spread of COVID-19 as slow as we can, to protect all our citizens,” Dr. Hoddinott said at that March meeting. “Social distancing measures can reduce opportunities for person-to-person virus transmission while delaying the spread and slowing the growth of a pandemic.
“We’re all in this together. You need to protect yourself and protect others; that’s our basic human responsibility. If asked to do so, please follow health officials recommendations to self-quarantine in order to prevent and contain the spread of all infectious diseases.”
The first case of COVID-19 was reported in the county March 23, involving an elderly woman who was hospitalized, Logan County Health District officials said. The first death in Logan County was reported June 17.
More recently, as of Tuesday, the ODH COVID-19 dashboard for Logan County showed a total of 2,299 cases of the virus since the pandemic started in the spring, and 23 deaths of county residents.
The dashboard also reported 117 hospitalizations of county residents, along with 1,907 individuals presumed recovered.
Here’s a look at some of the developments that occurred from the start of the pandemic until now:
Schools shut down
The day after the March 11 local health board meeting detailing community spread in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine ordered all kindergarten through 12th grade schools to close for a period of three weeks, which officially began at the end of the school day the following Monday, March 16.
On the heels of this announcement, local teachers quickly turned their attention to developing remote lesson plans and online learning for students.
Schools districts provided detailed information to families via social media and their websites, with Bellefontaine High School Principal Dr. Pam Noeth posting a message to her pupils on the BHS website
“We are living in an historic time. In light of the recent events across the state, the nation, and in the world, we want to make sure we are communicating with one another and taking care of one another in Chieftain Nation.”
The state mandated school closure eventually was extended through the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. Graduation plans were altered for the Class of 2020, which locally included outdoor drive-up ceremonies and virtual ceremonies, where pupils were individually recorded receiving their diplomas.
County state of emergency, stay-at-home order issued
When the school closures officially began, the Logan County Commissioners also declared a formal state of emergency that week on March 17. Just this week, the commission issued a press release relating that the state of emergency remains in place, asking residents to call ahead when planning to visit a county office.
“County operations have been altered over the course of the past months and some of that will carry on into the future. Most county offices will continue to be open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday,” officials said.
Also the week of March 16, Honda of America Manufacturing announced its plans to suspend operations at a dozen manufacturing plants across four states, Canada and Mexico in response to anticipated decline in market demand related to the economic impact of the pandemic, officials said.
Effective March 23, the automaker stated it would cease production for six working days through March 31. However, that production suspension would be extended for a total of seven weeks, with a staggered start of production resuming May 11.
The closure affected each of the local Honda facilities, including Marysville and East Liberty auto plants, as well as the transmission manufacturing plant in Russells Point and the engine plant in Anna.
Then during a weekend press conference, Gov. DeWine’s administration announced a stay-at-home order to begin March 24 as the number of cases in the state spiked to more than 350.
He said the order included advice he’s already passed along to residents, such as staying at home except for essential needs. It also included a list of businesses that are classified as essential and allowed to stay open. One of the main goals of the order was prevent the transmission of the virus to help buy time so that the state’s hospitals do not become overwhelmed.
“If everybody cooperates, we’re going to save a lot of lives,” the governor said.
Businesses reopen, health procedures implemented
Amid skyrocketing unemployment numbers for April, with some of the highest in the state felt in Logan County, DeWine announced in mid-April that the state would begin its reopening May 1.
As businesses reopened, safety measures such as masking, social distancing, temperature checks and surface cleaning needed to be in place. Restaurants and store check-out areas implemented glass dividers between customers and employees.
The Logan County Health District worked alongside area businesses on their re-opening plans to ensure that safety protocol and social distancing could be followed.
Beginning May 1, hospitals, clinics and other healthcare offices could resume more elective operations. Manufacturing, distribution operations and construction offices could reopen starting May 4. Retail stores and service businesses could open their doors May 12.
Restaurants and bars were permitted to resume outdoor dining May 15 and indoor could resume May 21. Barbershops, hair salons, nail salons and spas were also allowed to reopen their doors May 15 as well.
Summer months and fall surge
As cases began to climb in July, DeWine implemented a statewide mask mandate that started the evening of July 23.
Locally, a number of summertime traditions and Memorial Day parades were canceled, while a handful of Fourth of July fireworks activities were able to carry on with precautions in place. The Logan County Fair completed its 2020 exposition with a scaled down schedule focusing on Junior Fair activities.
Area school districts carefully weighed options regarding a return to classes in the fall. Most Logan County districts resumed in-person classes five days a week with the required safety measures, with an alternative option for students to be enrolled in a fully remote curriculum. Bellefontaine City Schools opted for a blended learning scenario for the first five weeks of classes so that only half of the students attended in person a given day, and then resumed full-time in-person classes in October.
LCHD officials said the county experienced a large spike in cases during November, with 958 cases reported that month, compared to the second highest number of cases, 217, in October.
As a result, automated phone calls were implemented at that time to contact positive cases because of “an overwhelming increase in COVID-19 cases and extremely limited resources” for contact tracing staff, health district officials said.
As 2020 draws to a close, signs of hope are felt in the new COVID-19 vaccine that has just started being administered locally to phase 1A individuals, beginning Dec. 15 in the county. Individuals in that group include residents and staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities; health care workers and personnel who are routinely involved in the care of COVID-19 patients; and EMS responders.
The ODH COVID-19 vaccine dashboard shows that 86 individuals have received the vaccine in Logan County, as of Tuesday.
Health district officials stated Dec. 23 via Facebook that the agency was preparing to receive a small shipment designated for phase 1A individuals and that it will follow the Ohio Department of Health’s Vaccination Distribution Plan.
“As our vaccination effort continues to unfold, we will keep you informed through the local paper and radio stations, our website and Facebook page for those that are currently being vaccinated. Please do not call asking when your group will be vaccinated because at this time we only have guidance for Phase 1A,” representatives said.
“Please remember that all available vaccines will be administered to those who choose to receive it.”