Researchers identify local COVID-19 ‘superspreaders’


A database pinpointed areas in Mahoning and Columbiana counties which attributed to the spread of COVID-19

Coronavirus, COVID-19 vaccine testing

Credit: Predrag Popovski/Moment/Getty Images

(WKBN) – The area’s “superspreaders” of COVID-19 came from local prisons and nursing homes, according to data compiled by professors and Ph.D. students at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

They compiled a map and database showing where the super-spreading events happened.

A superspreading event is when a single person infects a large number of people or when a gathering is linked to a large number of COVID-19 cases.

There’s no rule for when a cluster of cases is big enough to be called a superspreader event, but these are not instances of spread within one household. Instead, these are large clusters of cases where infection occurs in settings such as churches, restaurants or bars, the Associated Press reports.

Locally, the Elkton prison in Lisbon and Crandall Medical Center in Sebring were identified as areas where superspreading events took place.

The issue of coronavirus in the Elkton prison was well-publicized, leading to a legal battle involving the ACLU to get prisoners released early as COVID-19 spread within the facilities.

At last report, 937 inmates and 54 staff members there have recovered from COVID-19. The prison reported nine inmate deaths due to the coronavirus. Even on Wednesday, the prison reported two current COVID-19 cases there.

Facilities where people are in close quarters have posed challenges to staff members due to how contagious the coronavirus can be.

The CEO of Crandall Medical Center in Sebring talked to WKBN in June, comparing the facility’s battle with COVID-19 to “fighting a war.”

“It is very slyly lethal. It can lead one group to think it’s no more than the flu and it can be silently attacking other people,” CEO David Mannion said during that interview.

Through June 5, the virus killed 27 people at Crandall Medical Center and sickened others. Mannion himself tested positive, though he said he had no symptoms other than a slight chill.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, the facility has had 104 cases among residents and 47 cases among staff members. That’s as of April 15 when the department started its tracking.

Crandall isn’t the only nursing home that was hit hard by the coronavirus.

The database also identified Windsor House at Omni Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, Windsor House at Omni Manor in Youngstown and St. Mary’s Alzheimer’s Center in Columbiana as “superspreaders.”

In April, the operators of several local nursing homes — including Windsor House, Inc. — talked about what they called a shortage of protective equipment and testing supplies, asking the state to do more to help them. Their plea for help was met by visits from the state coronavirus strike force, providing guidance and testing kits.

Though most of the cases came from such facilities, researchers also cited a high school trip that Ohio students made to Myrtle Beach, which reportedly attributed to 17 COVID-19 cases.

Researchers did note some limitations to their study. For example, there were no indoor concerts listed as superspreading events. Researchers said that is likely due to the fact that they were all canceled during their study, rather than that they are not environments that could cause the spread of COVID-19.

You can read the full study and see the maps here. The database was last updated October 5.

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