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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Youngstown's Covelli Centre Ready, but May Not be Needed As Field Hospital

a photo of the Covelli Centre
The Covelli Centre typically hosts sporting and entertainment events, but it will be turned into a makeshift hospital should it become necessary.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, Mahoning County has the second most COVID-19 deaths in the state, along with having the fifth most cases.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH 13),  who represents the area and lives in nearby Trumbull County, says no one is exactly sure why Mahoning County’s number of cases and deaths are so much higher than their neighboring counties, which all have at least 300 fewer cases. He also says they are prepared if the numbers continue to rise and hospitals become overwhelmed.

“So we still have hospitals that are at like 60% capacity and they have ventilators available, so while the death rate is high, we are still prepared," Ryan says. "The Covelli Centre is still teed up, it’s on hold but it could take another 200 to 250 beds, so that was the planning from the last month or so and that’s there waiting.”

Ryan says there are two main theories among health officials as to why Mahoning’s numbers are so high: The travel between Mahoning County and Pennsylvania which could have driven the case numbers up, or the fact that Mahoning County has an older population could have increased the spread among the most vulnerable age groups.

Ryan says health officials have told him it will be a few months before it's known for certain how the virus spread so much in Mahoning County.