Delaware City Council passed a resolution Monday requesting the Ohio Department of Health provide important data relating to the number of COVID-19 tests that are being administered within Delaware County. The resolution, which was spearheaded by Councilwoman Lisa Keller, is an attempt to gain a better understanding of exactly where the county sits with the transmission rates of the virus.
“This data, specifically our county’s positivity rate, tells us how many of those who are tested for coronavirus are actually infected in our county,” Keller said during Monday’s council reading. “This was promised by the Ohio Department of Health by Aug. 1 … As it stands, we have an unsolvable math problem when we try to understand if there is more or less disease transmission between reporting periods.”
Keller said that when new case numbers are posted on the Delaware General Health District’s (DGHD) social media page, members of the community tend to make base assumptions, good or bad, about what those numbers mean to the overall spread of the virus in Delaware County. She acknowledged that the DGHD is being as transparent as possible, given the data it has to offer.
“Do our case counts have an impact on behavior, level of fear, or risk-taking in our community,” Keller asked. “Of course they do. These numbers matter to our constituents, they matter to our health district, they matter to every business that sits empty, and they matter to our kids and schools. Providing honest data in the proper context matters to everyone.”
Furthermore, Keller said there is “more other work to be done,” including advocating for standards regarding the test itself and gaining an understanding of what specific metrics Gov. Mike DeWine needs to see in order to end his emergency declaration and allow Ohio workers and families to “fully re-engage safely.”
Councilman Drew Farrell, commenting on Keller’s resolution, proposed that an amendment be made to the resolution that included a request to the state for more available and comprehensive testing. Farrell said administering more tests in the county will only add to the understanding of where the city and county currently stand with the virus spread.
While the resolution received the support needed by council members for approval, not all were on board. Before voting no on the resolution to request the data, Councilman George Hellinger voiced his concerns regarding the potency and activity of a virus that still exists and, he believes, can still ravage a community if regulations are eased.
“Several times over the past two weeks, I’ve heard individuals comment that they are over (the pandemic),” Hellinger said. “I suspect these statements are not uttered by someone who has lost one or more loved ones to the pandemic. To date, over 4,400 Ohioans have died. Over 14,000 Ohioans have been hospitalized, and over 3,000 Ohioans have been admitted to the intensive care unit due to COVID-19.
“Most everyone has had their personal and/or professional life impacted by the effect of the pandemic. The normalcy of the past has been replaced by a new state with many variables being turned on their head. Lives have been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, a disease with a high infection rate that is approximately 10 times as deadly as the seasonal flu in a bad year. These changes have helped us to somewhat control the spread of the disease. However, it is not going away. Not today. And there is no magic pill or vaccine that can eradicate it throughout the population,” he added.
Hellinger went on to say that instead of “being over (the pandemic),” each council member must “double down on our efforts to minimize the spread.” He said that any actions the city takes to encourage crowds gathering in businesses, downtown sidewalks, or anywhere else throughout the community “border on criminality.”
DGHD Commissioner Sheila Hiddleson voiced her appreciation for council’s efforts to help get that data into the hands of the health district. She clarified that if and when she is able to get the information, it will be just one data point that will be taken into consideration.
“It’s not the end-all to everything,” Hiddleson said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.