• Last modified 560 days ago (July 9, 2020)


COVID toll skyrockets with record 1-day jump

Startling 5 new cases in 1 day lead to ominous tone in announcement

Staff writer

In a startling announcement with somewhat threatening overtones, Marion County health officials disclosed a huge increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday night.

Before stay-at-home orders were lifted in June, the county had only five confirmed cases — a number that remained largely the same throughout the stay-at-home period.

Just a week ago, when commissioners voted to ignore governor’s orders and their own physician consultant’s advice to overturn an order requiring facemasks in public, the county total was 11.

Since then, a total of eight new cases have been confirmed — one last Thursday, one on Monday, one on Tuesday, and a surprising five on Wednesday, after publication of this week’s print edition of the newspaper.

The rapid one-day rise led to a rather ominous tone in health officials’ announcement of the tally Wednesday night.

Mandatory quarantining of all people identified as contacts of infected patients will now be required, and even a negative test will not lift the requirement of spending 14 days in isolation.

“Marion County continues to have an upturn in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases,” health department director Diedre Serene announced. “If you are notified by the health department of being a contact of someone who is positive for COVID-19, you MUST quarantine at home for 14 days.

“A negative test will not return an exposed person to work / sports / day care / etc. sooner than 14 days. If you are a contact, decide to be tested, and it comes back negative, you STILL have to finish your 14-day period because you may become contagious anytime during the rest of the 14 days. . . .

“If you are being tested for COVID-19, you are considered a Person Under Investigation (PUI). The PUI MUST isolate while waiting on results.”

The five new cases confirmed Wednesday include three males in their 20s, a female in her 20s, and a female in her 40s, whose status as a victim was reported in this week’s newspaper even before health officials officially announced the diagnosis.

Officials repeatedly have declined to release any other information about COVID victims. According to unconfirmed information obtained by the newspaper, virtually every area of the county — urban and rural — has had at least one confirmed case.

Despite the rapid rise in cases, Serene apparently still does not think facemasks should be required.

Top infectious disease specialists nationwide have stated that masks do not protect wearers and merely reduce, but do not prevent, spread of coronavirus.

Such activities as athletic competition and singing are particularly problematic, but even a person who is sleeping can spread the virus through droplets of moisture released with each breath, experts say.

Only a “moon suit” or other highly specialized personal protective devices, typically not available to the general public, block the disease, they say.

Still, actions individuals take to limit exposure to unfamiliar people and take basic precautions can prevent rapid spread of the disease.

Serene continues to urge all residents to keep at least six feet away from people other those they reside with, to avoid gatherings of more than 45 people, to wear masks when in public even if they are not required, to practice cough etiquette, and to frequently wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.

People who have traveled to Alabama, Arizona, or Arkansas since June 17, to South Carolina or Florida since June 29, or internationally or aboard any cruise ship since March 15 are required to isolate at home for 14 days.

“These are challenging days for groups and businesses,” Serene wrote. “They are responsible for providing a safe environment for their employees and participants. They are severely affected when their employees and participants are excluded due to exposure.

“Much of this exposure is occurring outside of work. The best way to keep our businesses open and functional and keep our social interactions available is to maintain a six-foot physical distance between people and wear a mask when in public when physical distancing may be difficult to maintain.”

Last modified July 9, 2020