More Ohio counties moved to the “Red” designation Thursday afternoon due to indicators pointing an increase in cases in those areas.
Specifically, Governor DeWine announced Thursday that new public health data has led the Ohio Department of Health to designate 19 counties as being in a Red Alert Level 3 Public Emergency as defined by the Ohio Public Health Advisory System.
The counties that were upgraded to Level 3 on Thursday include Athens*, Allen, Delaware, Licking, Lucas, Richland, Scioto and Union. Those continuing at Level 3 are Butler, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Montgomery, Pickaway, Summit, and Wood. Trumbell County was downgraded to Level 2.
Athens County is also on Ohio’s Watch List because it is closely nearing Purple Alert Level 4. Butler, Cuyahoga, and Hamilton counties were removed from the Watch List, but are still at Level 3 and the threat of exposure and spread remains high.
New counties upgraded to Red Alert Level 3 were mandated to begin wearing masks in public beginning at 6 p.m. on July 17, 2020. Mask mandates will remain in effect in all counties continuing in Red Alert Level 3. Residents in Trumbull County are no longer required to wear masks in public, however, they are strongly encouraged to do so.
Residents of all counties, regardless of level, are urged to wear face masks when in public.
According to DeWine, those 19 Red Alert counties make up nearly 60 percent of Ohio’s population, which will be under a mask order.
“I strongly encourage citizens living in other counties to wear masks in public as well,” said Governor DeWine.
Detailed information on each Red Alert Level 3 county can be found on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System’s website. The system was developed to provide local health departments, community leaders, and the public with data and information on the severity of the COVID-19 spread in the counties in which they live. The system consists of four levels with specific risk-level guidelines. Each level is calculated with data gathered on seven public health indicators.
DeWine talked a little about each county in his Thursday press conference. Of specific interest to southern Ohio, DeWine said the situation in Athens County rapidly accelerated with isolated outbreaks from concerning community spread.
“Athens has more COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks than they have during the whole pandemic. People visiting doctors with COVID-19 symptoms have skyrocketed by 700 percent over the last three weeks,” said DeWine. “Local health officials report at least three outbreaks at local bars that have temporarily closed due to their staffs having cases. The health director indicated the area right downtown has been a huge problem area.”
Like Athens County, Scioto County has seen more cases in the last two weeks than it has seen over the course of the rest of the pandemic, according to DeWine.
“Almost all of these new cases were from outside congregate settings, indicating wide community spread. More people are going to the doctor and being diagnosed with coronavirus,” said DeWine. “Local officials know of an outbreak at a daycare center and one other work place.”
Just a day earlier, DeWine gave a statewide address on Wednesday from his office in the Statehouse. He said that the state is at a critical point in the COVID-19 pandemic and implored Ohioans to take appropriate action to reverse the rapidly increasing spread of the virus.
“Today, more Ohioans are getting sick than at any previous point in this pandemic. We are sliding down a very dangerous path, with our once flattened-curve starting to sharpen and spike,” said Governor DeWine. “This is a worrisome, disturbing reversal of our progress — a jarring reminder of just how quickly our fate can change.”
Governor DeWine commended Ohioans for doing their part at the beginning of the pandemic. However, with positive cases increasing, he reminded Ohioans that the choices they make today will impact the spread of the virus in the coming weeks. During the speech, grounded in scientific evidence and data, Governor DeWine reminded Ohioans about the efficacy of facial coverings to protect themselves, loved ones, friends, neighbors and other citizens. He also renewed the call to socially distance and limit public gatherings.
“I am calling on all Ohioans to once again unite. We must work together, support each other, and help each other through this challenging time. I’ve seen you do this. I know you can do this. Ohioans can continue to help our most vulnerable, while also protecting ourselves and our families. Together, we can be the Ohio where our hospitals are not overwhelmed, where our schools can open, where sports can start, and where our economy can continue to grow,” Governor DeWine added.
On Thursday, DeWine applauded several major retail companies for making masks mandatory to shop in their stores.
“The jury is in,” said DeWine. “From the medical community and health community, we know masks make a difference. To people in orange and yellow counties, please wear your masks. It is working in Hamilton County (previously on the watch list). This is the right thing to do to slow this thing down.”
DeWine also said it is a change in culture for Ohioans and Americans.
“We are not people who wear masks. But we are adjusting to the new world we are living in. We can impact the future by what each one of us can do,” said DeWine. “Wearing a mask in public is very important. But do not assume people not wearing masks are defiant. Some folks are not able to wear masks.”
DeWine was questioned by the media about the fact that out of 11.7 million people, only a small number had contracted the virus. The reporter questioning him wanted him to explain the concern.
“I understand it doesn’t look like a huge number. We are basically where Florida was a month ago. Look at where Florida is today. The color red was picked for a reason. What we learned throughout this pandemic is that you have to move well before you have to move,” said DeWine. “You have to look down the road. We are losing a lot of people every single day. People are dying and will have long-term health issues. I would in no way minimize that. My worst nightmare is what is happening in other states will come to Ohio.”
DeWine was also asked by another reporter why he hadn’t mandated a mask order for the whole state.
“I wanted to give people the information to make decisions. I wanted to try one more time with an address in the evening to talk to the people of Ohio. People react generally better when you ask them to do it and give them the evidence to support it, rather than forcing it,” said DeWine. “The culture is moving in that direction.”
As of Friday, July 17, for the state of Ohio, there have been 72,280 reported cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, including 68,175 confirmed cases and 4,105 probable COVID-19 cases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded case definition. The state has seen a total of 3,112 reported COVID-19 deaths, including 2,858 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 254 probable COVID-19 deaths according to the CDC expanded death definition. A total of 9,445 people have been reported hospitalized in Ohio, including 2,305 admissions to intensive care units. A total of 49,302 are presumed recovered.
As of Friday, the 21-day reported cases change in Ohio was the highest its been in at least the last 21 days with a reported 24-hour change of 1,679 cases. As of Friday, reported hospitalization changes and reported intensive care unit admissions for the last 24 hours were also well above the 21-day average.
In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov
For Pike County as of Friday, July 17, there have been a total of 38 cases. Currently, 16 cases are active and 22 are listed as recovered. Three tests have returned positive for antibodies. And Pike County is also reporting its first nursing home case.
The county, as of Friday, was reporting two currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Data from the Ohio Department of Health shows a total of eight COVID-19 hospitalizations for the county during the pandemic.
The age range has expanded from 15 to 77, including 20 females and 18 males. Cases included 32 confirmed COVID-19 cases and six probable COVID-19 cases. There are 21 tests listed as pending.
Township data was also provided by the Pike County General Health District on Friday (see attached).
Valley View Health Centers in Piketon are scheduling free COVID-19 testing each Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (call 740-289-3508 for more information). The health district stated that this is a rapid test, so they will receive positive results immediately. This could potentially result in a substantial increase in positive cases each Friday since there is no lag time waiting on lab results, the health district stated on their Facebook page.
As of Thursday, July 16, Pike County remained at a Level 1 (Yellow) Public Emergency, Active exposure and spread.
“At Alert Level 1, all current health orders and sector guidance should be followed as they are in all levels, including guidelines for business and mass gatherings,” DeWine stated when introducing the public health advisory system recently. “On an individual basis, all Ohioans should continue to take appropriate health and safety precautions, including conducting daily health and symptom assessments, staying home when sick and contact your medical provider for advice, maintain social distance of at least six feet, wear a face mask or covering while in public, exercise increased caution when interacting with others who are not practicing social distancing by wearing face coverings, avoid travel to high-risk areas and practice good hygiene such as regular hand-washing.”
These recommendations are for all four alert levels, and levels 2, 3, and 4 also have more recommendations added to them.
For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH. For Pike County information, visit the Pike County General Health District’s Facebook page by using an internet search or following this link: https://www.facebook.com/Pike-County-General-Health-District-177816679077330/