Howell explains COVID-19 numbers


By Madeleine Mosher
For Greene County News

XENIA — Greene County Public Health Commissioner Melissa Howell felt sick when she saw coronavirus data on Greene County from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
The ODH released data on June 18 showing the Fairborn (45324) and Xenia (45385) ZIP codes as having the highest number of cumulative COVID-19 cases in the county, with 47 and 21, respectively.
But Howell knew that individuals, business and city officials in those areas would be alarmed by those numbers. She also knew they weren’t getting the whole story.
At the Xenia City Council meeting Thursday, she explained the data.
According to Howell, the ODH broke the numbers down by ZIP codes instead of by communities.
She agreed with the ODH that the Xenia ZIP code did have the second-highest number of cases in the county. However, she said, when the data is broken down by township, the numbers are different.
Beavercreek and Sugarcreek townships each consist of more than one ZIP code. When Howell totaled the numbers from the ZIP codes included in those townships, they came to 50 and 30 cases, respectively. Xenia Township’s ZIP codes, which include the city of Xenia and some surrounding areas, only came to 26 cases. Bath Township, which contains most of Fairborn, totaled 66 cases (the highest for the county).
The report from the ODH didn’t group the ZIP codes together, making it seem like Xenia had drastically higher numbers than other areas in the county. However, Xenia Township actually had lower numbers than nearby communities according to Howell.
“I just wish we had had the opportunity to get the narrative around [the numbers], before it was just kind of out there,” she said.
Howell said she thinks data should be realized with explanations about what it means, rather than just numbers alone.
According to Greene County Public Health, there are 208 COVID-19 cases in the county as of yesterday. This is an increase in 18 total cases since Howell’s presentation Thursday.
Due to the June 24 testing at the Greene County Health Center and the lifting of quarantine restrictions across Ohio, Howell said she expects the county’s rise in COVID-19 cases to continue.
Though the numbers can be alarming, Howell said in the meeting that people shouldn’t panic.
“The reality is, when you are at risk is not when you find out that number,” she said.
She explained that some people carry the coronavirus without ever showing symptoms. Even those that do show symptoms don’t exhibit them immediately upon contracting the coronavirus. Since they don’t know they’re sick, either group could infect others. That’s why Greene County Public Health promotes wearing masks, social distancing and cleanliness.
“The time to protect your family is today, is right now,” Howell said.

Cedarville University senior Madeleine Mosher is an intern for Greene County News.