As COVID-19 cases continue to come in, Williams County hit the state’s threshold for “high incidence rate” as of Friday.

High incidence is defined as a rate of 100 cases or more per 100,000 people.

Jim Watkins, Williams County health commissioner, said the county just missed the high incidence rate when the state updated its data last Thursday, with the rate coming in at 98.11, but on Friday the rate was listed at 106.29 per 100,000.

“We will probably, based on what we’re seeing around us, the assumption is we will, as of this week, move to a high incidence,” he said in an interview on Monday. “That means we have significant spread occurring.”

According to an email sent by Watkins, data set to be published today lists cases at 11.74 per 100,000.

As of Monday, total cases (including presumed cases) are listed at 276 for the county, including 24 hospitalizations and three deaths, the last of which was reported in mid-July. The county has had 21 new cases since Saturday. As of Friday, 198 have presumed to have recovered from the virus.

Despite the high incidence, Watkins said the county would likely continue to be in the Orange level per the state’s color-coded Public Health Advisory System.

As of Thursday, most of northwest Ohio was in the Orange, with Fulton, Defiance and Henry counties all having a high incidence rate in the Orange category.

Putnam and Mercer counties both have high incidence rate and are both in the Red category, seeing 756 and 1,317 cases respectively. They have been designated Red since early September.

In order to become a Red county, Watkins said Williams County would need to see increases in emergency department visits and hospital admissions.

He doesn’t want to see that happen.

“It’s really what the community decides is acceptable to them in a lot of ways, now,” Watkins said. “Everybody has been given the information to stay home when you are experiencing symptoms so that we don’t spread it to others. Limiting the places you go is important because each time you go somewhere and there’s a gathering of people you have that risk of encountering people with COVID. I’m not saying to not get out, just be smart about it.”

Events can be “big spreaders,” he added. People should be careful and know that outside with others is better than being inside with them.

Wearing face masks is also important.

“What we’re hearing from (Putnam and Mercer counties), they have very low numbers of people wearing facial coverings,” Watkins said. “We know what they say they’re seeing. People are congregating close together, they’re not wearing facial coverings. So, they are seeing high hospitalization numbers and high cases overall.

“It’s really that simple,” he continued. “We know what will work and we just need people to consider that.”

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