Pike County has been rated at a Red Level 3 Public Emergency, Very high exposure and spread, for COVID-19, by the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, as of Thursday, Sept. 24 (county rates are updated every Thursday).

According to the Pike County General Health District, the county has met four indicators of the health advisory system, including Indicator 1 — new cases per capita; Indicator 2 — sustained increase in new cases (one average daily case on Sept. 6 to five average daily cases by Sept. 16); Indicator 3 — proportion of cases not in a congregate setting; and Indicator 5 — sustained increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness (1.3 average visits on Sept. 9 to 3.7 average visits on Sept. 16).

As of Thursday, Pike County was ranked number five of the top 20 of Ohio’s 88 counties ranked by highest occurrence of COVID-19 (modified for population). Pike County was ranked at 14th as of Tuesday, Sept. 22.

During a press conference on Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stated that Pike County is red for the first time and is high in the number of instances of COVID-19 cases per 100,000.

“The county has 23 cases linked to a large event in a nearby county,” DeWine stated. “That large event resulted in dozens of contacts who have had to quarantine. The county also has a small workplace outbreak and some cases in the local schools.”

The governor said that he thinks the schools in Pike County and all the counties are doing a phenomenal job.

“Our sustained increase in new cases and outpatient visits for COVID-like illness have actually decreased over the past week,” according to the Pike County General Health District. “The sustained increase period happened from September 6th to the 16th, but we are seeing an overall increase in the 3-week lookback period, from around 1.5 at the beginning to about 2.5 at the end – so those indicators were triggered.

“We hope to always have Indicator 3 (proportion of cases not in a congregate setting) triggered. If not, that means we have an outbreak in one of our long-term care facilities.”

Those in a Red Level 3 county are to limit activities as much as possible and follow all current health orders.

Guidelines for all levels include the following:

• Conduct a daily health/symptom self-evaluation and stay at home if symptomatic.

• Maintain social distancing of at least six feet (some experts are saying much farther) from non-household members.

• Wear face coverings in public, especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain.

• Increase caution when interacting with others who are not practicing social distancing or wearing face covers.

• Avoid traveling to high-risk areas.

• Follow good hygiene standards, including:

* Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

* Use hand sanitizer frequently. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] says hand sanitizers should contain at least 60 percent alcohol.)

* Avoid touching your face.

* Cover coughs or sneezes (e.g., into a tissue, or your elbow).

* Symptom self-evaluation monitoring.

Guidelines for Level 2 include the following:

• Same guidelines as in Level 1 and in addition:

• Avoid contact with anyone who is considered high-risk.

• High-risk individuals should take extra care to follow precautions.

• Decrease in-person interactions outside household.

• Seek medical care as needed, but limit or avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and residential care facilities to see others as much as possible.

Guidelines for Red Level 3 Public Emergency include the same guidelines as Levels 1 and 2 as well as the following:

• Decrease in-person interactions with others.

• Consider necessary travel only.

• Limit attending gatherings of any number.

“Over 60% of Ohioans are considered high-risk based on CDC guidance,” according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). “High-risk individuals are at an increased risk of severe illness and should take every precaution to guard against contracting COVID-19, including following higher risk level guidance ... Consult a doctor about your risk.”

The indicator overview for the state can be viewed at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/OPHASM/Summary-Alert-Indicators.pdf

More detailed information on the advisory system, its indicators used to establish levels, and guidelines for each level can be found at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/public-health-advisory-system/

Detailed information on Ohio Public Health Advisory Levels as well as information on who high-risk individuals are and more is available at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/OPHASM/COVID-19-Risk-Level-Guidelines-GP.pdf

Households should assume that if one person is sick every person living there is as well and should take appropriate measures to control the spread, which should include self-quarantining and contacting a doctor, according to ODH.

The Pike County General Health District provided a graphic on Thursday of a COVID-19 case study that illustrated how spread from one large private gathering can occur and how that can impact the community (see case study graphic attached to this story).

The graphic shows that a large event resulted in 23 reported positive cases in multiple counties and a neighboring state; 42 contacts identified in Pike County and several others in surrounding counties; and one hospitalization.

As of Friday, Sept. 25, the Pike County General Health District was reporting 51 active COVID-19 cases in the county. Pike’s total COVID-19 cases since pandemic tracking began are 200, including 155 confirmed cases and 45 probable cases (which includes positive antibody tests and rapid tests). 149 cases are reported as recovered.

On Wednesday, the Pike health district reported 10 new cases and two more recovered; on Thursday, they reported one new case, four more recovered, and another hospitalization; and, on Friday, they reported eight new cases and six more recovered.

Pike’s cases have included 113 females and 87 males, ranging in age from two years old to 87 years old. As of Friday, the health district was reporting three people currently hospitalized from COVID-19 for the county and zero deaths. The Ohio Department of Health shows that Pike County has had a total of 18 hospitalizations.

As of Friday, the health district reported that they are monitoring 205 people and that 429 people have completed monitoring. In answer to a recent question on their Facebook Page, the Pike County General Health District stated that “monitoring” means those who are currently under quarantine, including cases plus contacts. They said that “completed” refers to those who have completed their quarantine period.

The Pike County General Health District is reminding everyone “to continue to take preventative measures by practicing social distancing (six feet apart), washing your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, (and do) wear a facial covering in public settings. Please avoid large gatherings and if attending a large gathering, do your best to maintain social distancing and wear a facial covering while indoors — and outdoors if social distancing cannot be maintained. Most importantly — if you or your child feel sick, please stay home and seek guidance from a health care professional.”

Pike’s neighbor, Scioto County, is also currently at a Red Level 3; Jackson and Adams counties are at Orange Level 2. Governor DeWine said on Thursday that Scioto County meets four indicators and, unfortunately, returns to Red this week.

In addition to a rise in new cases in Scioto County, the governor said that Scioto County is also seeing a sustained increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness, growing from seven average daily visits on Sept. 9 to 24 average daily visits on Sept. 16.

“Local health department officials (in Scioto County) have said there have been some outbreaks in longterm care facilities and at social gatherings such as weddings,” the governor stated.

For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, including tips for prevention of the disease, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

Email at mlucas@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @NewsWatchman.

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