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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

As Schools Reopen, Hamilton County Monitoring COVID Numbers

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Hamilton County officials said Wednesday the COVID-19 metrics they're monitoring continue to decline, including positive cases, hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions.

But they warn residents should not let down their guard.

County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman displayed a chart with the number of new cases reported daily, including trends after an indoor mask mandate was implemented in the county around July 8.

"And from there, even though there are some spikes in cases and some bumps along the way, generally speaking, we are continuing to see a decline in the number of cases here in Hamilton County," Kesterman said. "I am hopeful that this trend will continue, and we will get ourselves back to where we were, prior to this most recent spike."

Credit Provided / Hamilton County Public Health
Hamilton County Public Health
Daily COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County.

Since March, there have been 9,248 positive COVID-19 cases in the county. Right now, the county health department is monitoring 456 active cases in its district. That excludes Cincinnati, Norwood and Springdale.

Kesterman said the virus is still community spread, and people with it are continuing to be out in the community.

"Our epidemiologists look at this data and we do try to find trends, and actually we're not seeing trends in which one location has been pinpointed and is causing community spread - it's all over," Kesterman said.

Officials again stressed handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks to slow the spread and protect yourself.

Meanwhile, the county health department is working with school districts on reopening plans. That includes having contact tracers to help school officials.

"We want to make sure that when we find a case within a classroom in a school, we're able to respond quickly and get the information necessary to isolate individuals within that classroom," Kesterman said. "And to do the recommended deep cleaning of that space so that we're not spreading the virus."

That deep cleaning could involve a single classroom, several classrooms in a wing of a facility, or in some cases, the entire building.  And some districts may elect to close a school building for that work.

County Commission President Denise Driehaus said the county's emergency management agency will be helping supply school districts with 110,000 cloth masks, 50,000 face shields, and 350 no touch thermometers. 

"We are unable to procure masks for every single student in every district," Driehaus said. "But we are trying to make sure that if there is a child that comes to school and forgot their mask; if a mask breaks during the day; if a faculty member needs a mask; then those schools have a supply that they can get out in those situations."

The county is using federal CARES Act funding it received to make the supplies available to school districts.