Positive COVID-19 cases are on the rise in areas of Ohio and across the nation.
In Thursday’s press conference, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine provided some updates on Ohio’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a question and answer session with President and CEO of (UC) University of Cincinnati Health Dr. Richard P. Lofgren, MD, MPH, FACP.
DeWine said Thursday, June 25, was the fourth highest day of COVID-19 cases in Ohio that have been noted by report date since the pandemic started. On Friday, the state’s COVID-19 case number was even higher, with a 24-hour reported case range of 987 cases over Thursday. The 21-day reported case average as of Friday was 518 cases a day.
“The earlier days were April 18 and 20, and those days included significant testing in prisons. It is important to note in today’s (Thursday) cases, almost 60 percent of these individuals are in the 20-49-year-old range,” said DeWine.
“We have increased testing. But no analyst that I’ve talked to believes the total increase is due to that at all. We are going to continue to make more data available on the coronavirus website.”
The discussion moved to Hamilton County in the Cincinnati area with Dr. Lofgren.
“Hamilton County has done a really good job slowing down and containing the spread of the virus until, unfortunately, the last 10-plus days,” he said. “We’ve definitely seen an uptick or a spike in the number of new cases.”
Lofgren talked about the effective reproductive ratio, also known as R naught, which measures how many people will be infected by a sick individual. The R naught had reached 2.4 in that region in April. In recent weeks, the R naught had declined to below one. However, in the last 10 days, the R naught has doubled over the last 10 days in the Cincinnati region.
Dr. Lofgren explained that the increase in cases is not only due to the tests being performed, but the increase shows there is a greater presence of the COVID-19 in the area, and it is spreading in the community. He said it serves as a reminder about the importance of wearing a mask in public, washing your hands, sanitizing frequently-touched surfaces, and keeping social distance.
“We’ve seen an uptick in cases, but also seen a modest but real uptick in hospitalizations and ICU cases. We’ve had a real shift in the people who are testing positive. In the week of May 31, the distribution was fairly even across all of the different age groups on May 31. But we’ve seen dramatic increase in the number of people who are testing positive in the age group of 20-30 and again in some degree in the age group of 30-40,” said Lofgren.
“We’ve seen a shift in younger people that is really driving increase in the cases. This is very consistent with what we are seeing around the state and around the country. This is indicative that the increased number of cases we are seeing is not just because we are doing more tests. It really does indicate that there is more disease and it is spreading in our community.”
Lofgren said it is possible to live safely with the virus if the basic principles are followed including mask wearing, frequent washing of hands, frequent sanitizing of surfaces and social distancing.
A reporter at the news conference asked DeWine about mandating mask wearing across Ohio.
“As re-openings began, people are wearing masks in businesses. We are urging people to voluntarily wear masks,” said DeWine. “As we move forward in the stage that we are in now, we are looking more at county by county. We are going to try get every county the data we have and let everyone know where they are by county. As we see alarming numbers, we are going to have conversations with local officials about what we can do.”
Another reporter questioned DeWine about what will happen with Ohio schools in the coming academic year. He said more details will be released next week.
“When these guidelines come out, I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised. What we are going to do in the document, that should come out early next week, is broad guidelines on health. There are no surprises in there,” said DeWine. “You are going to see a great deal of flexibility for local schools that are in different situations. We would urge them to do as many measures as they can. I think you will see schools react differently based on circumstance. They will do the best they can.”
Governor DeWine also announced Thursday that the Ohio Department of Health will continue funding for the 2-1-1 service as Ohio enters into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
2-1-1 is a phone service that connects thousands of Ohioans to local non-profit and government services for healthcare, food and meals, housing, transportation, mental health, and legal services.
At the beginning of the year, the service was available in 51 of Ohio’s 88 counties. When the pandemic began, Ohio EMA asked Ohio AIRS, the non-profit that governs Ohio 2-1-1, to provide service to the remaining 37 counties in Ohio, which happened in March.
“Often, people in need require help getting connected to services, and we know that the need has grown remarkably during this unprecedented time,” said Governor DeWine. “The 2-1-1 service is particularly important for those most vulnerable in our state who have been hit by COVID-19 the hardest.”
Ohioans can also dial 877-721-8476 to get connected to 2-1-1.
As of Friday, there have been 48,638 cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, including 45,172 confirmed cases and 3,466 probable COVID-19 cases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded case definition.
As of Friday, there were 2,778 COVID-19 deaths in Ohio, including 2,545 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 243 probable COVID-19 deaths according to the CDC expanded death definition. A total of 7,570 people had been hospitalized, including 1,904 admissions to intensive care units. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov
Ohio is offering free COVID-19 testing for all residents at pop-up testing sites across Ohio. Pop-up testing locations for June 29 through July 2 are listed at coronavirus.ohio.gov under “Testing and Community Health Centers”.
Full videos of DeWine’s press conferences can be found on the Ohio Channel website at http://www.ohiochannel.org/collections/governor-mike-dewine?collections=109410&dir=DESC&keywords=Search+Collection&pageSize=12&sort=BestMatch&start=1
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.
More detailed information on the Responsible RestartOhio plan can be found at www.coronavirus.ohio.gov/ResponsibleRestartOhio