NEW LEXINGTON — New cases reported by the Perry County Health Department have been linked to a church service at a local congregation located in the Village of New Lexington. At this time, Perry County is still under a level two health emergency as noted by the State of Ohio.

On Aug. 20, the Perry County Health Department released information regarding four new active cases being linked to a church service held on Aug. 9. The four individuals attended the service at the New Lexington Baptist Church located along South Main Street in New Lexington.

According to the health department, other individuals who also attended the congregation service are urged to monitor for symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) including doing temperature checks twice a day.

The health department described symptoms being mild to severe and may appear between two to 14 days after an initial exposure to the illness.

Symptoms also include fever or chills, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting or diarrhea.

The Perry County Health Department also said that it will be contacting anyone who has been exposed to someone known to have COVID-19. The agency defines an exposure to the illness as someone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19, meaning less than six feet of distance, for roughly 15 minutes or more.

“If you have questions about your risk of exposure, contact our public health nurses at the Perry County Health Department, 740-342-5179. Our nurses will work with you to determine your risk of exposure and provide guidance regarding self-quarantine, monitoring symptoms, and testing as needed,” Perry County Health Commissioner Angela DeRolph said.

The health department has been working with New Lexington Baptist Church Pastor Jon Emory and shared that the church has given notice to all attendees of the first positive case. Prior to the Aug. 9 service, the church requested that all attendees follow guidelines, according to the health department. Guidelines included mandatory mask wearing and social distancing.

The health department stated that the church no longer has its meet and greet portion of its service. The church also escorted people out of the building after the service concluded to avoid congestion when exiting.

The week prior to the church service, those in positions of leadership with the church had sent regular visitors a letter outlining a three level safety protocol system. Services were suspended for a week to ensure that the church could properly clean and sanitize its facility before resuming services.

The service held at 10:30 a.m. will go from a level two, yellow, to a level three, orange, health category for the next two weeks, the health department reported. This means that no one will be allowed inside the facility without facial coverings, services will be an hour shortened and individuals will be designated in seats assigned to them. They will also be dismissed at the conclusion of services.

According to the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 advisory system, Perry County is still under a level two health emergency which indicates an increased exposure and spread of the illness.

Muskingum, Licking and Fairfield counties have also been placed in level two advisories. Roughly a couple weeks prior, the collective areas were categorized as level three counties, or red. Franklin County is still under a level three health emergency.

As of Monday, there are currently 49 active cases in Perry County, 48 of which have been confirmed with one test still pending, according to the health department. There have been 159 individuals who have recovered from the illness.

So far, five people have lost their lives to the virus, the latest being a 96-year-old female; and three individuals have currently been hospitalized. There is also one current intensive care unit (ICU) admission.

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