Health commissioner says residents ‘can do better’

Staff report

MIAMI COUNTY — Miami County moved into the Red, or Level 3, on the state’s COVID-19 risk level plan on Thursday for the first time since the beginning of the advisory system, meeting four of seven alert indicators. This risk level indicates very high exposure and spread of COVID-19.

The county also is now No. 6 out of 88 Ohio counties in the ranking of highest occurrences of COVID-19 cases for a two-week period. For the two-week period from Oct. 28th through Nov. 10, Miami County has had 620.6 cases per 100,000 population.

In addition, Miami County remains a High Incidence area, meaning there have been more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks. The county will stay at a Red level until it is no longer in the High Incidence category.

“Miami County, we can do better. We can and we should be using the tools we have to protect our fellow citizens. Wear a mask, social distance, avoid large gatherings and wash your hands,” said Miami County Health Commissioner Dennis Propes. Now is the time to protect each other. We are so close to having an available vaccine. I know none of us want to be the reason someone becomes sick or goes to the hospital or even passes away. We can reduce the risk to our community. We ask you to step up at this time and be accountable to your family, friends and community.”

According to Miami County Public Health (MCPH) staff, it is advised that community members limit activities as much as possible and follow all current health orders. Limit events over 10 people and non-essential activities as much as possible.

As of Thursday, since Oct. 29, there have been 855 new COVID-19 cases, 37 new hospitalizations and six new deaths reported. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in Miami County to 3,094, with 2,808 confirmed cases and 286 probable cases, 234 hospitalizations and 65 deaths, with 2,044 presumed recovered. On Friday, cases rose to 3,198 — an additional 104 cases — and another hospitalization was reported. An additional 35 people also are presumed recovered since Thursday.

Hospital administrators are imploring the public to follow the state’s guidelines to help the county recover from the pandemic.

“As positive cases and hospitalizations continue to rise it is imperative to do what we can to minimize the spread — wash hands, wear a mask, and maintain 6 feet of social distance. It truly makes a difference” said Kettering Troy Hospital President Eric Lunde. “We’re in this together and appreciate each person doing his/her part to keep family, friends, co-workers and neighbors safe and healthy.”

UVMC President Kevin Harlan agrees.

“Currently, Upper Valley Medical Center has the capacity and equipment to take care of all patients being admitted to the hospital,” Harlan said. “In collaboration with our community partners, we are actively monitoring admission needs and planning for any potential increase of patients to be in the best position to provide the level of care needed. Our clinical and support teams have trained extensively and are well-prepared to treat patients with COVID-19 while ensuring the safety of all patients and staff.

“We strongly urge the community to be vigilant about following the recommended guidelines for masking, sanitizing, and social distancing to help prevent further spread and potential overload on our local resources.”

Miami County Public Health Health Educator Vicky Knisley-Henry said staff has not yet heard from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office about state employees canvasing local retailers for non-compliance of the mask mandate in stores.

Janel Hodges, epide​miologist for MCPH, said contract tracing continues to become more of a challenge. Hodges said during the month of October the county averaged 26 cases per day. Just in the month of November, the county is now averaging 57 cases a day, she said.

“As the COVID-19 cases continue to grow in the county, contact tracing has become a real struggle for us in the past two weeks. The 50 percent increase of positive cases produces even more close contacts.”

Hodges said they are working on hiring more contact workers, using the Ohio Department of Health contact tracing program, and recently hired Wright State University to assist in case investigation and contact tracing.

“We are now in surge response, which means we contact a positive case once, if they don’t answer, we send them a letter to isolate and notify close contacts to quarantine,” Hodges said.

For more information, visit