Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.
HAMILTON, Ohio - Butler County and Ohio are at a “choice point” between experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and flattening the curve, county Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer said Thursday.
Although the state later reported two new confirmed cases, bringing the county’s total to 21, Bailer said stay-at-home orders and other efforts to reduce crowds and maintain social distancing in the county appeared to be paying off.
Pointing to her familiar hand-drawn chart, Bailer said Butler County is still in the safe zone, meaning it has not exceeded the health-care system’s capacity to handle COVID-19 cases. Only four cases have required hospitalization, she said.
Bailer said she heard on a morning call with the state health department that “Ohio is doing better. We’re not zooming up this curve. We’re creeping up the curve slowly, and that is thought to be because we’re doing a good job with our social distancing.
“Does that mean we should abandon the plan and go back to what we’ve been doing? Heck, no,” Bailer said. ”We’ve got to stay the course."
Dr. Amy Acton, the state health commissioner, confirmed that “through our collective work here in Ohio, (we have) decreased that impact on our healthcare system from anywhere from 50% to 70%."
Nevertheless, Acton said Ohio could still see as many as 6,000 to 8,000 newly diagnosed cases each day if a surge develops.
“If you’re not staying away from other people, I plead with you to do that," Bailer said. "If we can do that over the next week, we can get back to the blue zone and we’ll be able to handle this in Ohio.”
Bailer had a new look - donning a cowboy hat a la Sheriff Richard Jones -- but used the same pen and pencil graph to the dismay of her staff.
“My staff told me this isn’t very professional looking and they wanted me to have a different one, but I think it’s simple and it demonstrates the point,” Bailer said.
Bailer said the county has already taken steps to increase the health-care capacity and number of rooms for patients should a surge take place. That includes clearing the jail of low-level offenders, preparing a second jail building for patients and finding housing for people experiencing homelessness.
When Bailer said Butler’s total is the 12th highest among Ohio’s 88 counties, Jones noted that Butler’s ranking has been dropping steadily while some other counties have seen cases grow by leaps and bounds.
“We’re moving downward in a good direction,” Jones said.
As long as Butler County residents comply with the state directives, it can avoid what’s happening in New York, Bailer said.
Bailer said the difference “is simple in my mind.”
“If you don’t not have to go to work, if you’re not in an essential, critical job, if you can work from home, please do so,” Bailer said.
“My message today is the same message I gave you Tuesday and that’s ‘stay the heck at home.’ That will help us tremendously.”
Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:
- Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
- See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.
- State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
- See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.
- SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.
What is coronavirus, COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.
The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.
What are the symptoms? How does it spread?
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.
The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.
Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.
The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.