OTTAWA COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) — As an outbreak of COVID-19 connected to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island continues to spread, health officials are taking action to prevent the summer hot spot from turning into a virtual “hot zone.”
“Everybody’s a little on edge right now,” said Jerry Bingham, Ottawa County Health Commissioner. “It is a scary thing to think that we have a lot of people that are possibly sick on Put-in-Bay.”
Concerns over an outbreak started last week when seven people tested positive for coronavirus.
Now, Bingham says, there are dozens of additional cases, if not more being reported in Ottawa, Lucas and Erie counties.
“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in positive cases coming from Put-in-Bay,” said Bingham. “Just in the last two days we’ve seen an uptick of 20 cases.”
Bingham says they are working with the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Army National Guard to stop any further spread by testing all employees from Put-in-Bay businesses.
Many of them are seasonal workers and come from different countries, states and counties across Ohio.
The results are expected back within 24 to 48 hours.
Based on those results, health officials will decide their next course of action including notifying the employees’ place of origin and/or permanent residence if they are positive for COVID-19.
“So far all of the businesses have been very cooperative. They all want to do the right thing,” said Bingham.
Some businesses voluntarily temporarily closed after employees tested positive including “The Boardwalk” Seafood Restaurant, which is strongly encouraging customers wear masks when they reopen Thursday.
Facial coverings are also mandatory on both Miller Ferry and Jet Express, said Bingham.
Testing will take place Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Put-in-Bay Fire Department. About 1,000 people will be tested.
Two teams of more than 20 National Guard members will be collecting the swabs, in conjunction with the Ottawa County Health Department, and Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton.
Although only employees are being tested, health officials are encouraging everyone to wear masks, practice social distancing and frequent hand washing, so that the fun can “safely” continue on the small island.
“Hopefully we can get ahead of this. We just want people to enjoy their summer, but we have to do this safely,” said Bingham.