First case of COVID-19 in Yellow Springs confirmed
- Published: April 9, 2020
The novel coronavirus has officially reached Yellow Springs.
Late on Tuesday, April 7, local authorities were informed of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the village. And on Wednesday, April 8, a family member posted the news on a local Facebook group.
Village resident Matthew Huntington, 50, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to his sister, Laura McDonald, in her public post.
The patient, whom McDonald has identified as her brother, was transported from his South High Street address to Soin Medical Center in Beavercreek on Sunday, April 5, according to Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman. Altman was later informed that the man tested positive, per hospital policy.
“We were notified by Kettering Health Network at about 10:35 p.m. [on Tuesday night],” Altman said. “They contacted us right away.”
As of Wednesday morning, Huntington was in the intensive care unit at Soin and on a ventilator, according to McDonald, who the News reached by phone.
McDonald said that her brother believed he contracted the virus while working at a Spectrum call center in Columbus, where he handles high level customer support cases. Huntington returned to work there on March 22 after a vacation, after which “he was scrupulously careful not to interact with anyone else or do any shopping,” McDonald wrote in her post.
“He didn’t go anywhere else in town or out of town,” McDonald told the News. “He went straight back and forth to work.”
Three days after returning to work, however, Huntington developed his first symptoms, McDonald said.
The MTFR squad first attended to the patient on Saturday, April 4, but he did not want to be taken to the hospital at that time, according to Altman. Altman added that the local squad protected themselves during their two interactions.
“Our crew took all the precautions that they had to,” Altman said.
McDonald said she went public because of the speculation on social media around possible local cases.
“There has been so much misinformation, we would just rather put it out there,” she said.
Altman said he hopes news of the first local confirmed case might “strengthen people’s resolve” to wear masks in public, avoid gatherings, wash their hands and stay home when possible, which he believes are “relatively simple steps” to help prevent the spread of the disease.
“If nothing else it would let people know that we’re not a bubble in Yellow Springs. And that it’s here and there’s probably going to be more cases,” he said.
Village Manager Josué Salmerón was also notified of the case on Tuesday night, when local dispatchers were called by Greene County Public Health and a family member of the man.
Salmerón urged villagers not to panic about the news, but to continue to be diligent about following social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines. Salmerón said he was not surprised by the news.
“It’s the first confirmed case, but we’ve had people who are sick in town,” Salmerón said. “I’m under the impression that we’ve had COVID-19 cases, but that they just never rose to this level.”
It is unclear whether Huntington’s case was part of the 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Greene County as of Tuesday, April 7, according to Ohio Health Department figures. Those figures also included six hospitalizations and one death. Statewide, there were 4,782 confirmed cases of the disease, with 1,354 hospitalizations and 167 deaths. More than 50,000 Ohioans have been tested, according to the state.
In response to a question about how widespread COVID-19 may be in the village at Monday’s Virtual Town Hall, Altman said it was hard to tell. He added that of the previous 10 patients the squad had seen, about eight believed they had COVID-19. However, Altman noted that because it’s allergy season and many symptoms can be similar, those patients may not necessarily have the illness.
In addition, because testing remains limited and those with mild symptoms are usually told by their physician to stay home, many local cases will not be confirmed or counted, at least in the short term, Altman explained.
“The vast majority of people who have COVID-19 don’t have to be treated anywhere,” he said. About 20% of known cases lead to hospitalization, according to state figures.
At the town hall, Melody Kingsley, a village resident with Greene County Public Health, advised villagers to “treat everyone as if they’re positive.” The county health department has asserted previously that they believe COVID-19 to be present in every jurisdiction in the county.
Kingsley also said that according to county modeling, the peak of the illness in Greene County is estimated to end around April 10, but that the county was re-evaluating that date.
“We believe this is not the end of it,” she said.
According to Altman, more confirmed cases are likely in the weeks ahead.
“There’s still two to three tough weeks to come. But we’re ready.”