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The winners of the Northwest Signal First Baby of the Year Contest are Lindsey and Ben Wachtmann of Napoleon, who had Collins Rose Wachtmann at 8:10 a.m. Wednesday at Henry County Hospital. She weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and measured 19 1/2 inches long. She was welcomed home by sister, 2 1/2-year-old Clara.

Protect pipes from freezing

Cold weather is settling into the region and it could get worse, which might result in some unexpected costs for homeowners and others.

Sub-zero temperatures can freeze water in pipes, leading to the potential of pipes bursting.

According to AAA Insurance, claims filed last year by homeowners on such incidences approached $40,000 in coverage damages, an increase of almost $15,000 over the average year.

Protecting water lines isn’t difficult.

“Just by ensuring your crawl spaces or basement windows are sealed up, that way you don’t get drafts going down through there,” said Napoleon Fire Chief Clayton O’Brien.

“The cold air coming across those pipes can actually cause them to freeze if they’re not being used on a regular basis,” he added.

He said exposed pipes or those in danger of freezing can be wrapped in insulation or heat tape, but said caution needs to be used.

“Just make sure the tape doesn’t have any frayed edges and is in good working order,” O’Brien said.

He also said if a pipe does freeze, kerosene heaters or similar devices should not be used to thaw the frozen water pipe, as that could cause other nearby flammable material to catch fire.

O’Brien also said any water pipe, whether made of plastic or copper, is susceptible to freezing under the right conditions.

The City of Napoleon is also once again offering its program whereby water customers can run a thin stream of water, about the width of a pencil lead, continuously in order to help prevent lines breaking. However, the customer must first contact the city utilities department at 419-592-4010 and sign up before doing so.

“You can get a credit on your water bill if you do that, but only if the water department is previously notified before you start doing it,” O’Brien said.

Keeping the water flowing a bit can also help protect the water meter. Water customers are responsible for the cost of replacing a damaged meter if the damage is due to negligence.

“We’re just really trying to make sure that all the residents throughout the city are made aware of the effects that the cold weather can have our their water lines,” O’Brien said.

Tips for protecting pipes

Below are some tips to help prevent pipes from bursting in winter, or what to do if it should happen.

Protecting pipes:

Make sure basement windows are closed tight and draft free. Use temporary insulation to prevent drafts through windows.

Check all areas of a basement to make sure the temperature is not below freezing.

Repair any basement or crawl space cracks.

Close vents to crawlspaces.

Check any exposed waterlines on outside walls to make sure they are warm.

Wrap water lines that have the potential to freeze in insulation or heat tape.

Wrap inside water meters in insulation or heat tape. In Napoleon, if a meter is damaged due to neglect, the customer is responsible for the costs of replacement.

Keep garage doors closed as much as possible, especially if water lines are located there.

If pipes do freeze:

A hair dryer may be used to thaw frozen pipes. Start closest to the faucet and work your way out. Never use a torch or flame to thaw pipes.

Do not use a hairdryer or other electrical device in standing water.

If the pipes burst:

Turn off the main water valve and then clean up the water to avoid further damage.

Call your insurance company claims department.

Make temporary repairs, including removing carpet or furniture that could be damaged over time.

Make a list of damaged articles and take photos.

Save receipts for related expenses.

Record number of COVID-19 cases recorded in one week

COVID-19 cases nearly doubled in the county within a week with nearly 300 cases reported, the most recorded cases in Henry County in one week throughout the entire pandemic.

The Henry County Health Department reported 297 COVID-19 cases were recorded from Jan. 3-9, an increase of 146 compared to the week of Dec. 27-Jan. 2. Of the 297 new cases, 69 were under 20 years old (23%) and 187 were unvaccinated (nearly 63%).

Six hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have been recorded so far in January, and four of those were unvaccinated (nearly 67%). None of the hospitalizations were for individuals under the age of 20. According to the weekly dashboard released by the department, no deaths have been reported for January.

Henry County’s COVID-19 case rate was 1,085 per 100,000 population, which means approximately 298 people in Henry County have COVID at any given time. The calculation per 100,000 population is intended to compare counties of different sizes to each other.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, 55.05% of Henry County residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine (14,868), as of Wednesday. Residents who have completed their vaccination stood at 51.78% (13,985). Those receiving additional doses (third doses and boosters) in the county totaled 7,031.

With the surge in cases, the Henry County Health Department encourages all residents to get vaccinated if eligible, wear a mask in indoor public places, wash hands frequently, eat healthy, be active, get plenty of sleep and stay home when sick.

When a person tests positive for COVID-19, the isolation period begins when the symptoms start or on the date of the positive test if no symptoms are present. Regardless of vaccination status, individuals should stay home for five days. After that, if there are no symptoms present or symptoms are resolving, individuals should wear a mask around others from days six through 10. Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 who still have a fever after day five should continue to stay home until the fever resolves.

NAS Board updated on COVID, staffing

With the surge of COVID-19 cases in the county, changes are being made to contact tracing done at schools in the county.

Superintendent Dr. Erik Belcher released a letter Wednesday that stated the ability to effectively contact trace has become unsustainable, so the district will update its procedures with a focus on positive cases, household close contacts, general notifications to families listed on the district’s website and direct communication with parents of medically fragile students who might be impacted by someone with COVID in their classroom or grade level.

“We will no longer conduct contact tracing for school setting exposures,” Belcher said. There are no changes to isolation for a confirmed case or quarantine periods of close contacts in homes.

Belcher discussed the changes with the Napoleon Area City Schools Board of Education Wednesday and said the recent shortening of the quarantine and isolation periods has led to issues with contact tracing.

“By the time (tests results) were getting back and (we’re) getting notified, we do contact tracing, the five days were already up,” Belcher said of the quarantine period. “We were still doing all this work of contact tracing — principals going out and measuring what kids were in contact ... and it was basically causing a lot of work for no gain.”

As of Wednesday, the district’s website said there were 30 current COVID-19 cases in students and 10 positive cases in staff. Belcher added the district is also seeing many cases of influenza A (flu) and strep throat at this time, leading to more absences as well.

“We also have some that are not testing,” Belcher said. “They’re just keeping their kids home, which is exactly what they should be doing ... (and) we don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know what that illness is.”

For example, Junior/Senior High School Principal Ryan Wilde said there were 77 students out of that building Tuesday (11.6%), with 18 of those having COVID and 20 on quarantines.

Belcher said the district just received a new shipment of 180 COVID-19 test kits that can be distributed to students to take at home if needed.

As far as staffing goes, Belcher said the most concerning piece is bus drivers at this point.

“That takes a special skill set,” Belcher said, referring to the required CDL and training.

With new temporary standards allowing those 18 years and older and with a high school diploma to be substitute teachers instead of the previously required bachelor’s degree, elementary school principal Matt Dietrich said that extra help has been invaluable. He added some of the newer substitutes are college students working toward an education degree.

“We have some different college kids that are serving that are phenomenal, they’re doing a bang-up job,” he said. “I’m looking at this as a job interview for some of these kids ... when you see a person in action, doing the job for weeks on end, that’s a working interview to me.”

It was noted that administrators and supervisors are also filling in as needed whether as classroom substitutes or bus driving substitutes.

“Last week was probably our toughest week,” Dietrich said of staffing. “This week, we’re doing much better. We’ve been covering most of our open spots.”

Multiple comments were made expressing appreciation to staff for their dedication, as well as one directed to the board for keeping learning in-person instead of shifting to remote learning.

“We know that this is the best place for kids is learning and instruction here, we know the online does not work,” Dietrich said. “Other districts ... are shutting down or sending kids home with laptops again.

“We know that’s not the best environment.” he continued. “Granted, they have different populations that they have to deal with. But for us, if we can keep them in person, this is where they need to be.”

Board member Michael Wesche added he feels the district is blessed to have the effort, concern and dedication of the staff.

“I feel our parents and our students are very, very thankful for the efforts that our administrators and our staff have put forward to keep our kids in school,” he said.

No beach weather: Florida Panhandle get snow dusting

SHALIMAR, Fla. (AP) — Parts of the Florida Panhandle got a dusting of snow early Monday after temperatures dropped dramatically from the previous day when the thermometer was at typical beach weather.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office posted video a deputy captured on patrol showing falling snowflakes bathed in the light of a lamppost in a store’s parking lot. Only 12 hours earlier, the temperature had been 75 degree Fahrenheit (23.8 degrees Celsius), the post said.

“Well how’s this for a temperature change? “From 75 degrees at 3 in the afternoon to snow at 3 am,” the post said. “Bundle up out there!”

Michele Nicholson, a spokeswoman for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, said in an email that the snow didn’t stick so it didn’t cause any problems. The county is home to two popular beach destinations, Fort Walt Beach and Destin.

Don Shepherd, a senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, said in a phone interview that the dusting was “just a few little flurries.”

The last time the Florida Panhandle had any significant winter weather was in January 2018 when a storm dumped snow in Tallahassee for the first time in three decades and forced the closure of schools, offices and a stretch of Interstate 10.

The National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, whose territory includes the Florida Panhandle, warned Monday that it was going to be unusually cold for the area and would feel colder than the actual temperature because of breezy conditions.