By Allen Kim and Elizabeth Joseph | CNN
At least 17 Ohio high school students tested positive for coronavirus after a recent trip to Myrtle Beach, when they returned to a county that had previously reduced infection rates to zero.
Robert Sproul, Deputy Commissioner of Health at the Belmont County Health Department, tells CNN that nearly 100 Ohio Valley students traveled to the city of South Carolina and returned the weekend of June 13. The trip was not a school sanctioned event.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Belmont Health Department confirmed the 17 positive and two positive contact cases. Sproul expects that number to increase as more people travel and people they are exposed to to be tested for the virus.
“We are concerned that our numbers are increasing,” he said, adding that none of the students have been hospitalized and all are quarantined in their homes, while health officials track contacts to identify where the students were and with who were.
Prior to this increase in cases, Belmont County had reduced infection rates to zero, Sproul said, attributing the county’s success to residents who took state-imposed restrictions seriously.
“We have been in quarantine for so long, the state had a travel ban and our numbers weakened,” he said, describing previous Covid-19 patients as “elderly,” while county health officials say the Youngest person on the trip to Myrtle Beach was 16 years old.
“We knew they would travel as soon as they could. We just hoped they would be responsible with social distancing and wearing masks, ”said Sproul, acknowledging that high school seniors in the area generally go to Myrtle Beach on vacation each year.
“Perhaps he will reconsider his destination,” he warns future travelers. “If you go to an access point and don’t take precautions, you’re asking for trouble … it could happen in your city.”
More tests are being done on the students and their contacts as officials wait for results.
According to a count by Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 45,537 positive coronavirus cases in Ohio and 2,704 deaths.
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