More information regarding Ohio’s Public Health Advisory System came out of Tuesday’s press conference with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted.
Seven of Ohio’s 88 counties are listed as Red, which specifically is defined as Alert Level 3 Public Emergency (Red). The red indication shows that the county has met four or five indicators of COVID-19 with very high exposure and spread. Limiting activities is encouraged as much as possible. Those counties include Franklin, Montgomery, Butler, Hamilton, Huron, Trumbull and Cuyahoga. Pike County is at yellow, which is a Level 1 Public Emergency with active exposure and spread. Level 1 counties are to follow all health orders.
Out of those seven red counties, DeWine is most concerned about Franklin County, which he said is bordering on moving to the highest level of purple. That would mean the county has met six or seven indicators of COVID-19 with severe exposure and spread. At the purple level, residents are encouraged only to leave home for supplies and services and to follow all current health orders.
“We continue to have a great concern about Franklin County as well as the other red counties we are seeing,” said DeWine. “Our experts believe there is spread no matter what county you live in. It is just how fast and how much. We spoke to health commissioners in the seven red counties. We asked them why we were seeing the spread. It is spreading at large family gatherings. In some cases, it is spreading in the work place, some tourist destinations, and in some churches.
For those seven counties, the Ohio Department of Health will be issuing a health order that will require individuals in those seven counties to wear a mask in public places. That order will go into place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8.
“The order is that it will be necessary for individuals who are out in public to wear a mask. Primarily this will be when they are in a public place inside,” said DeWine.
“The order will stay on as long as the county stays at a red or purple level. If a county drops out of that level, the mandate of wearing a mask will go off. This is aimed specifically at the seven counties where we are most concerned. It does not mean that people should not wear a mask, or (that) we wouldn’t ask them to wear a mask in public in every other county. We do think it is a good way for the other counties to not get into the red category.”
“In addition to social distancing and reducing unnecessary interactions with others, we know that wearing a mask helps protect others in the community. It has been, and remains, a very strong recommendation that I urge all Ohioans to continue doing even if you are not in a red-alert county,” said the governor. “In red-alert and purple-alert counties, however, we must do more to help protect citizens because the risk of spread is increasing even more.”
DeWine explained that in the seven red counties, people need to wear masks in the following circumstances: in any indoor location that is not a residence, when they are outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of their household, or while they are waiting for, riding, driving, or operating public transportation, taxis, private care service, car service or a ride-sharing vehicle. This order does not apply to children under 10 or any other minor or anyone else who cannot wear a face covering. The order also reflects the mask guidance that has existed for employees and businesses under the health and safety guidelines, which does not require a person to wear a mask if their physician advises against it, if a mask is prohibited by federal regulations, when communicating with the hearing impaired or when alone in your office or physical workplace.
In the question-and-answer session with the press members, DeWine was asked about the charges that might arise from not wearing a mask where it is required by orders.
“It is a misdemeanor. We are not looking to see people arrested. The idea is that this is the norm (mask wearing) and what is needed for Ohioans to stay safe,” said DeWine.
“I think we probably have five or six lawsuits already testing our authority. I’m sure there will be lawsuits filed. Our lawyers tell us we do have the authority to do this. This is an extraordinary circumstance. We hope we don’t ever live to see this again. This is a public health crisis.
“Historically, governors in Ohio and other states have been able to take action that needed to be taken in an emergency basis when there was a public health emergency. We are trying to take action that is measured. We put a mask order on in seven counties, not 88 counties. In everything we do, we are trying to measure what needs to be done to try to get us through this. I have a responsibility to do everything in my power to get through this and keep our economy moving, which is threatened by significant increase. I have an obligation to protect people in the state of Ohio. We have that authority. The original law goes back decades.”
In the Thursday, July 2, press conference with DeWine and Husted, guidance for schools was addressed.
“We know that each school system, and perhaps each school building, will likely look different in the fall. We also know that Ohio has a long history of local control and that school administrators and teachers know their schools best,” said Governor DeWine. “Working together and consulting with educators and other health officials, we have developed a set of guidelines, backed by science, that each school should follow when developing their reopening plans.”
The newly-issued guidance report advises schools to vigilantly assess symptoms, wash and sanitize hands to prevent spread, thoroughly clean and sanitize the school environment to limit spread on shared surfaces, practice social distancing, and implement a face coverings policy.
“Just as we have done in the business sector with employees, we are requiring school staff to wear face coverings to reduce the spread of the virus, unless it is unsafe or when doing so could significantly interfere with the learning process. When face coverings aren’t practical, face shields may be considered,” said Governor DeWine. “We strongly recommend that students in 3rd grade and up wear face coverings as well.”
More details on the new school guidance is available online at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/responsible-restart-ohio/Sector-Specific-Operating-Requirements/
To assist schools in their efforts to implement the guidance, the Ohio Department of Education has created a document titled, “The Reset and Restart Education Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts,” which is designed to help teachers, principals, and administrators with solutions to safety challenges, according to the governor’s office. The document is available online at https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/OHOOD/2020/07/02/file_attachments/1488298/Reset-Restart-full%2006.20.20.pdf
“The document provides resources and information for community decision-makers as they contemplate how to reopen safely,” the governor’s office stated. “The guidance announced was developed in consultation with school superintendents, teachers, parents, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Ohio School Boards Association, Ohio Association of School Business Officials, Alliance for High Quality Education, and Ohio Association of Career Tech Education.”
On July 2, DeWine also committed to working with the Ohio General Assembly on a plan to ensure that federal CARES Act dollars are made available to Ohio’s school districts for unforeseen expenses associated with creating a safe environment, according to his office.
Also on Thursday, Lt. Governor Husted announced that “Presumed Recovered” is a new data point now reported in Ohio’s COVID-19 data metrics shared on coronavirus.ohio.gov .
“Many have been asking why the number of people recovered isn’t reported and that’s because this data isn’t reported to the Ohio Department of Health, so we don’t have an exact figure,” said Lt. Governor Husted. “However, we can presume what that number is based on the other data we have.”
Ohio’s current presumed-recovered count was 41,438 as of Tuesday, July 7.
For the state of Ohio as of Tuesday, there had been a total of 58,904 cases, 8,383 hospitalizations, 2,101 intensive care unit admissions, and 2,970 deaths. The cases include 55,150 confirmed cases and 3,754 probable COVID-19 cases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded case definition. Deaths included 2,718 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 252 probable COVID-19 deaths according to the CDC expanded death definition.
As of Tuesday, the 24-hour reported change in Ohio’s COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit admissions were all significantly higher than the 21-day reported average.
For Pike County, as of Tuesday, July 7, there have been 25 total cases now, including nine active cases. Pike’s cases now include individuals from 18 years old to 72 years old. The cases include 14 females and 11 males.
Pike’s cases include 20 confirmed cases and 5 probable cases.
Video of Thursday’s full update from the governor and lieutenant governor, including versions with foreign language translation, can be viewed on the Ohio Channel’s YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCporaXCeaOJgZKz7y3C0zbg
For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, including tips for prevention of the disease and slowing its spread, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.