Report details Allen County Public Health pandemic response

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Sam Shriver, The Lima News, Ohio
·3 min read
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Mar. 28—LIMA — Allen County Public Health's 2020 Annual Report chronicles the department's first recognition of the pandemic and the steps it took along the way to keep Allen County residents safe.

It pointed to the pandemic's huge impact on all aspects of individual health — social, emotional, economic, mental and physical — as well as the overall health of the community and the political landscape.

"In March of 2020, when students were sent home for distance learning, there were many unintended side effects impacting the safety, nutrition and psychosocial development of our children," the report said. "Adults have had their routines interrupted, jobs were lost and our businesses were impacted. The fall saw schools reopen for on-site education, with strict pandemic protocols in place. While quarantines became part of the school process, schools have not been a major source of spread."

The report said that "the overwhelming stress of the pandemic exacerbated conditions and issues that already existed. Nationwide, there have been increases in suicides, increases in the number of people using drugs and more people reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety."

It also took notice that many of the health disparities that have been identified in the Lima community in the past were magnified during the pandemic.

"Our Allen County residents who are Black are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In Allen County Black residents make up 12-13% of our population, yet they represent 18% of Allen County residents who have been hospitalized due to COVID-19. Others at high risk include the homeless, the uninsured and people with behavioral issues," the report said.

Politics sometimes got in the way of the role of public health.

"Protective measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, stay-at-home directives and reopening orders received pushback from many sectors for a variety of reasons. Many public health leaders, including Ohio's Director of Health, Amy Acton, resigned as they faced threats and harassment for pushing these measures as ways to limit the spread of disease," according to the report.

By last fall, Ohioans experienced pandemic fatigue.

"There was less regard for preventive measures. Cases of COVID-19 were primarily spreading through social contacts such as weddings, funerals, parties and get-togethers. We saw huge spikes in cases of COVID-19. The surge in cases stretched thin hospitals' inpatient and intensive care staffing in Allen County and across the state and country as well as the capacity of public health contact tracing efforts," the report noted.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, health officials are optimistic.

"The good news is that we can look forward to the promise of 2021: to recommit our resolve to keep up our defensive protocols, to administer more vaccine as the supply increases and to support each other through the days to come. Through this response, we have been encouraged by our strong partnerships in place in our community. The pandemic has reinforced how much we need the support of each other. A coordinated, collaborative response is the only way a community can weather this COVID-19 storm," according to the report.

It cautioned residents of what's ahead.

"We've lost friends and loved ones. We've faced scary times and new challenges at every phase of this pandemic. It is not over yet."

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.