Butler County coronavirus cases jump as testing increases: Where do things stand?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Coronavirus: 81-year-old grandmother returns home after 2-month battle with COVID-19

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Increased testing has produced a spike in positive coronavirus cases in Butler County in the past week, and Middletown’s health director said the data show the state is reopening businesses too early.

As of Monday, there were 14 deaths and 476 positive and five probable novel coronavirus cases countywide, according to the Butler County General Health District. Positive cases increased 45 percent from May 2 to 9, from 324 to 472, during a time that drive-thru testing opened at Fort Hamilton Hospital and other testing was happening more frequently, officials said.

Middletown Health Director Jackie Phillips said with all the data now available, opening about 90 percent of the state’s economy up for business is premature.

“We’re probably opening up too early,” Phillips said. “But due to people pushing to be open and (saying), ‘Let us take our own risk,’ there’s people out there that feel like it’s not that bad, and not that many people are dying, then I think we’re having to do it (reopen). So with us doing this we’re just going to see the peaks, the increase.”

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Numbers released on Sunday by the Ohio Department of Health showed Butler County ranked 10th in the state in positive cases. Franklin County, home of the state capital, had the highest number of cases at 3,777, and Lucas County has experienced the most deaths at 164.

Cars line up for COVID-19 testing Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Cars line up for COVID-19 testing Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Cars line up for COVID-19 testing Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer could not be reached for comment, but a message on the county’s coronavirus website reads: “Case numbers are up due to the increase in availability of testing in our area. This increase was expected, and will likely continue as new kits have been shipped to many facilities across the region in the last few days.”

Phillips said clusters of cases are also prevalent, such as the six West Chester Twp. firefighters who tested positive earlier this month. The latest epidemiology report issued by the health district May 6 showed 81 of the cases were “cluster related.”

Hospitalizations are also up, according to Phillips, but gleaning significant information about the severity of cases is difficult. The statistical report showed 82 of the then 359 positive cases involved hospitalizations.

“Usually those hospitalizations, in order to be admitted you have to be pretty serious,” Phillips said. “So that’s why you’ll probably see more deaths. Sometimes there’s a lag, sometimes people are in the hospital a week, two weeks, three weeks before you see deaths.”

A rally was staged in front of the Historic Courthouse in Hamilton last weekend, and several prominent Republican politicians spoke to about 100 protesters supporting more legislative oversight for state-ordered pandemic restrictions.

State Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., helped pass legislation in the Ohio House last week and Gov. Mike DeWine has vowed to veto it.

“It’s my opinion and my belief that free markets and free people know better what to do than government does…,” Lang recently told the West Chester Twp. trustees. “We think businesses should be open as soon as possible with as few restrictions as possible. Businesses know best how to protect their employees, their customers and their vendors.”

Phillips said health departments are an arm of the government charged with keeping people safe, just like issuing boil orders when necessary.

“Government has rules and regulations to keep people safe,” Phillips said. “I get it that people don’t like to be told what to do, but that’s the role of government sometimes, to make sure we have regulations and different things in place to keep people safe, it’s the same thing.”

Butler County coronavirus total cases, by date of reporting:

March 14: 4

March 21: 16

March 28: 24

April 4: 61

April 11: 116

April 18: 168

April 25: 223

May 2: 324

May 9: 472

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