There are only six counties left in Ohio that do not show a high incidence of COVID-19 spread within communities, Governor Mike DeWine announced during his Tuesday afternoon press conference.
"Sadly, the red tide of the virus continues to spread throughout Ohio ... there's no escaping it," he said.
"High incidence" refers to the county's ratio of positive COVID-19 cases compared to the population within that county; specifically, it means counties carrying this label are seeing more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents.
Hospitalizations continue to spike statewide, though DeWine said so far hospitals are not yet overburdened with patients. The spike shows no sigh of plateauing, however, which DeWine called concerning. The new spike, unlike the previous spike in hospitalizations seen over the summer, is showing a much steeper curve, indicating a faster rate of hospitalizations than seen before.
All areas of the state are seeing increases in the number of COVID patients being treated in hospitals, in Intensive Care Units and on ventilators. Hospitalized COVID-positive patients are at an all-time high. pic.twitter.com/THCNFu5hHN
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) October 27, 2020
DeWine urged Ohioans to step up their personal responsibility, because evidence shows that the spread is coming directly from people gathering together, not observing social distancing and not wearing masks. He and Lt. Gov. John Husted both stressed that the state does not immediately plan to enter another shutdown, particularly because the spread of COVID-19 is coming not from businesses, but from people not observing guidance for gatherings.
"Please reconsider hosting or attending gatherings of any size," said DeWine. "This includes with friends and extended family. Think about canceling events. Certainly don't go to Halloween parties. Wear a mask inside, and outside when you can't social distance."
He urged businesses and employees who can work remotely to do so as well, to reduce community contact; for retail, he urged businesses to require customers to observe the mask ordinance unless they have a medical exemption.
While DeWine and Husted refused to outline what circumstances the state or a county would need to meet to force a shutdown or new restrictions, DeWine consistently stressed that high community spread would directly impact how schools, nursing homes and hospitals function.
"The virus is spreading and it is everywhere in Ohio," said DeWine. "It is community spread that is driving this. When you see numbers as high as we just looked at, that indicates that virtually every county except six – 82 counties – have this high, high spread. Which means it's out in the community. The community spread endangers our schools, our nursing homes and our hospitals."
DeWine said he is looking to county leaders to form a plan of attack for reducing COVID-19 spread and infection rates and reminded local leaders that the state has resources, like PPE, rapid testing and guidance on building ventilation, available for those counties that may need it.
He pushed for a localized tack with county and city leaders from all aspects of communities stepping in to increase accountability, reduce gatherings and enforce mask-wearing and social distancing as much as possible.
"Now is the time to re-evaluate every single community, county," said DeWine. He said after Tuesday's conference, he planned to immediately hold a call with the three counties seeing the highest degree of incidence: Franklin, Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties. Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties have been put on the watch list approaching the Ohio Department of Health's highest alert level of "purple," which indicates "severe exposure and spread" of COVID-19.
Watch the full press conference below: