With 11 new COVID-19 cases last week, Williams County moved into the Orange level in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. Williams County had been at the lowest level, Yellow, since Aug. 13. Orange indicates an increased exposure and spread of the virus.
The updated data from the Ohio Department of Health was publicly released during Governor Mike DeWine statewide briefing on Thursday
Beside Williams, 10 other countries moved up from Yellow to Orange this week. Fulton County remains Yellow, but Williams County joins Defiance, Henry and Paulding counties in the Orange category.
State health officials said the population of Ohioans living in yellow counties has decreased during the past four weeks, indicating a significant recent spread of the virus across the state.
A total of 67 counties stayed at the same level as last week.
Nine counties currently have a very high risk of exposure and spread, including Putnam County in northwest Ohio and Mercer County in western Ohio. The other seven are: Ashland, Butler, Delaware, Montgomery, Pike, Scioto and Stark counties.
“Where the more urban areas had the most cases early on, it might have been inevitable that we’ve seen a wider spread in the rural areas,” Williams County Health Commissioner Jim Watkins said Friday, noting that Mercer County now has the most cases per 100,000 people, with Putnam County now second.
The Mercer County Health District (MCHD) on Thursday reported 1,113 confirmed and probable cases.
“As time goes on, I think we’ll continue to see those (rural) numbers trending up,” Watkins said.
Williams County is reporting 206 confirmed and probable coronovirus cases, with 16 hospitalizations and three deaths.
“Our numbers indicate we do need to take this seriously,” Watkins said.
There are 147,744 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 4,715 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. A total of 15,051 people have been hospitalized, including 3,228 admissions to intensive care units. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Watkins did note some concern that as the weather turns colder, people will be inside in confined spaces more often, where it’s easier to transmit and spread the virus.
“As we’re in more close proximity, there’s more opportunity to spread,” he said.
Watkins continued to stress preventive steps residents can take to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19, including social distancing, wearing a mask at all times in public and regular hand washing and sanitizing surfaces.
He particularly lauded both local schools and nursing homes and assisted living facilities for their vigilance and low numbers of cases to date.
“Thus far, our nursing homes are in good shape. And the schools have really done a good job. It’s kept our numbers (of cases) down,” he said.
DeWine did announce Thursday two new health orders that will allow for indoor visitation at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and intermediate care facilities in Ohio.
Intermediate Care Facilities:
The Ohio Department of Health today issued the Director’s Order to Limit Access to Ohio’s Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and to Permit Visitation. Intermediate care facilities for Ohioans with developmental disabilities can resume indoor visitation beginning on Monday, Sept. 28, if safety standards outlined in the order are met.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities can begin allowing indoor visitation on Monday, Oct. 12. This date was selected to allow adequate time for the facilities to prepare their physical plants, adjust staffing levels, update visitation policies, and communicate expectations with residents and families.
Indoor visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities should only resume if certain safety standards are met. These standards will be outlined in a forthcoming public health order.
When visitation resumes, a Long-Term Care Facility Dashboard will be added to the COVID-19 data dashboard at coronavirus.ohio.gov where users can access facility-specific visitation information.
HIGHER EDUCATION SCREENING
DeWine also announced that Ohio’s ResponsibleRestart guidelines for higher education now includes a recommendation that all residential colleges and universities regularly test a sample population of asymptomatic students.
“Some schools are already doing this, and screening asymptomatic students really gives school leaders a good idea about virus spread on their campuses,” said DeWine. “Our expectation is that colleges and universities will screen at least 3% of their at-risk population on a regular basis.”
The updated ResponsibleRestart Ohio guidance will be posted to coronavirus.ohio.gov in the next few days.
SPORTS ORDER MODIFICATION
Lt. Governor Husted announced that the one-game-per-calendar-day limit on sports competitions has been removed from the current sports order, which will be available soon on coronavirus.ohio.gov.
This change comes over a month after the most recent guidelines were published with evidence showing that events have gone on without any noticeable increase in spread.
OHIO NATIONAL GUARD — PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
Following a request from authorities in Cleveland, Governor DeWine today issued a proclamation to activate approximately 300 members of the Ohio National Guard to assist the Cleveland Police Department during the presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday.
The deployed National Guard Soldiers and Airmen will be activated as part of the National Guard Response Force and will assist police in areas such as traffic control, site security, and critical infrastructure protection.
The Ohio National Guard has provided support for similar events in the past, including the Republican National Convention in 2016 and several presidential inaugurations.