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The Jefferson County Health Department reported 241 new COVID-19 cases today (Dec. 3), bringing the total number of cases in the county to 12,727 since the start of the pandemic.

The county currently has 4,789 active cases, the Health Department reported.

As of midnight Wednesday, 533 people were quarantined, which means they had a confirmed exposure to the virus and were in the process of completing a 14-day quarantine period.

However, on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new quarantine guidelines for people exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus, reducing the number of days a person is asked to remain in quarantine, as long as they have no symptoms.

Health Department officials said they would follow the new guidelines, which allow a person to end quarantine after 10 days if they have no symptoms or after seven days if they have a negative test result and no symptoms.

As of Wednesday night, a total of 7,808 people had been released from isolation since the start of the pandemic, according to the Health Department.

Of the county’s total coronavirus cases, 939 have been at long-term care facilities, which includes residents and staff members who live in Jefferson County.

Of the total 108 COVID-19 deaths in the county, 56 have been from long-term care facilities.

Color status

The county remains at the red level on the Health Department’s COVID-19 warning system for the fifth consecutive week.

Red is the highest level on the Health Department’s four-color system and indicates widespread and uncontrolled transmission of the virus.

Several factors are evaluated when determining the color level, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and White House Pandemic Task Force guidelines. However, the main indicator is the seven-day rolling average. If the county has a rolling average of 25 or more cases per day per 100,000 residents, it is moved to the red level.

From Nov. 22 to Nov. 28, the seven-day rolling average of cases in the county was 86.67 per day per 100,000 people in the county, which has a population of about 225,000.

Preventative steps 

Jefferson County now has a face mask order requiring residents to wear face masks while in public spaces when social distancing cannot be maintained. There are no fines or penalties for violators, though.

The order went into effect 12:01 a.m. Friday, Nov. 27, and ends 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21.

It requires residents 10 and older to wear masks in public when they cannot keep 6 feet away from others.

According to the order, face masks must be cloth, fabric or another permeable material without any holes or one-way valves. The mask must cover a person's nose and mouth.

The order includes several exceptions: A mask is not required for people outdoors at least 6 feet from others; people who are exercising at least 6 feet from others; people who are engaging in a sporting activity; people inside a vehicle; people who are eating and drinking at a restaurant or other dining establishment; and people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks.

Health Department officials stress the importance of taking other steps, in addition to wearing masks, to prevent the spread of the virus, including limiting nonessential travel, avoiding crowds, social distancing, good hand-washing and staying home if you are sick.

Officials say they are especially worried about the spread of the virus over the holiday season, when people tend to gather with family and friends. Those kinds of gatherings, the Health Department has warned, can lead to the spread of COVID-19, which is particularly dangerous for older people and those with pre-existing health conditions.