JEFFERSON — Public health officials are urging Ashtabula County residents to continue to take precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the area.

The COVID-19 community spread is now becoming more evident, while institutional COVID-19 disease spread is somewhat decreasing, said Ray Saporito, Health Commissioner at the Ashtabula County Health Department.

"This trend is concerning however, and is not confined to Ashtabula County as it is taking place in many parts of the state and country," he said.

"This recent trend is most likely related to the re-opening of the local and state economy. Unfortunately, some members of the public believe that the re-opening of the local and state economy means that the threat of COVID-19 has greatly diminished. However, as much as we would like this to be the case, COVID-19 is still a significant concern in Ashtabula County."

In April, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Ashtabula County Health Department like other county health departments found the majority of COVID-19 cases occurring in congregate living facilities like nursing homes, prisons, group homes, and assisted living facilities.

"In April more than 80 percent of COVID-19 cases in the county were occurring in congregate settings," Saporito said. "We have since begun to see more cases originating in the community outside of congregate settings."

In late May, health officials saw a decline in the number of cases originating in congregate settings decreasing to 68 percent.

"This finding means that in our county community spread of COVID-19 is on the rise," he said. "When we say, 'community spread,' we mean cases that do not originate in a facility or institution but come from another source in the community."

The trend toward more community spread in Ashtabula County has continued into June. To date the Health Department is reporting 60 percent of the total number of cases coming from congregate settings and the other 40 percent originating in the community.

Health officials urge people to protect others by practicing etiquette, such as frequent hand washing and covering of the mouth in your sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Officials also recommend residents to disinfect surfaces as often as possible. Moreover, wear a mask whenever possible to decrease transmission of COVID-19.

"We present this data to caution the community to stay vigilant in reducing the transmission of COVID-19," Saporito said. "Although business and events are now reopening, one should still take precautions when in public. We must all work together to slow the spread of COVID-19."

For more information, contact the Ashtabula County Health Department at 440- 576-6010 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

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