From the Wooster Daily Record:

MILLERSBURG — Coronavirus cases in Holmes County have spiked in recent weeks after the county spent months in the single digits.

The Ohio Department of Health reported on Friday that 84 cases had been detected in the county, up from 15 cases a month ago. The county has reported three deaths and five hospitalizations from COVID-19.

The uptick in Holmes County began in early May just as the pandemic was cresting in Wayne County and statewide.

Twenty-four new cases were reported for the week ending June 7, and 18 for the week ending May 31. While these numbers may appear low, accounting for the county’s small population, Holmes’ new case rate rivals the state’s peak at slightly over 50 new weekly cases per 100,000 people.

This graphic, via the Daily Record, shows the increase in Holmes County (blue line). The other two lines are Wayne County and the state of Ohio. Note that this chart tracks cases per 100,000 people (Holmes County’s total population is about 45,000):

However, this increase was not a surprise, and the situation is under control, according to the county health commissioner:

Michael Derr, health commissioner for the Holmes County General Health District, said a late wave of cases in rural areas was expected as the pandemic ebbed in cities.

“We knew as they were going down, we were going to start going up,” he said.

However, Derr said, the pandemic is under control in Holmes, emphasizing the low number of deaths and hospitalizations.

The commissioner attributes the rise to both an increase in testing and the reopening of the economy.

A different response in Indiana

Areas of the country’s two other largest Amish communities have also seen COVID case increases (LaGrange County, IN and Lancaster County).

LaGrange County, quite similar as far as size and Amish population to Holmes County, has seen a larger increase. Dr. Tony Pechin is the county’s Health Officer:

Pechin said he’s watched with disappointment as LaGrange County sets new records almost every day for the number of new confirmed coronavirus infections in the county. This past week alone, that number nearly doubled, jumping from 139 confirmed cases on June 5 to 235 cases on Friday, and many of those new cases are popping up inside LaGrange’s Amish community.

“We’ve had a significant increase in cases after the governor eased restrictions. I’m concerned that there are more cases out there than are being tested. I think a lot of folks are already sick and won’t get tested, especially within the Amish community,” he said.

That’s a bigger one-week jump than in Holmes County (96 new cases vs. 24; the time frames used in each place overlap, but don’t perfectly match).

Of course, without information on the number of tests performed in each place, this information is not too useful for comparative purposes.

But it is interesting to see the quite different responses by these two health officials to similar phenomena. One health official is frustrated by a “cultural problem”, exacerbated by “health illiteracy” (Pechin in LaGrange County).

The other (Derr in Holmes County) seems to view and frame it differently: “If you’re looking for gold and you know where to look for it, you’re going to find more of it. The fact that we have testing, and we’re able to test means we’re going to find more of it.”


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