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Health Departments Struggle With Staffing, Huge Influx Of Cases

A pop-up testing site at Eaton High School in Preble County in July, where the health department was also distributing free masks and hand sanitizer.
@PrebleCoHealth/Facebook
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A pop-up testing site at Eaton High School in Preble County in July, where the health department was also distributing free masks and hand sanitizer.

Thousands of reports are being reviewed by the Ohio Department of Health before being posted to its coronavirus tracking website. Part of that is double-checking antigen test results with local health departments. But those agencies are struggling with staffing – especially in rural areas, where the virus is spreading suddenly and rapidly.

There are around 41,000 people in Preble County in southwest Ohio on the Indiana border. And it has the tenth highest COVID case rate among all 88 counties. Staffing issues forced the Preble County Health Department to notify residents that contact tracing is being delayed.

“We have sanitarians who do food inspections helping us with data entry. We have other staff who are doing like contact tracing, doing data entry," said Preble County health commissioner Erik Balster.

Balster says all staff members are pulling long hours.

“On a given week, there’s someone doing something COVID related seven days a week. I won’t say 24 hours a day but through late hours of the night for sure," Balster said.

The Cleveland Department of Public Health recently had to delay data because of the surge in cases, and staff at public health agencies around the state are trying to catch up with data and contact tracing.

 

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