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Butler, Hamilton counties could soon be at ODH's highest coronavirus threat level

Governors disregarding White House guidelines on reopening
Posted at 1:56 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 17:28:23-04

One county — Huron — fell out of the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 red-zone between Wednesday and Thursday night. Six more took its place.

People in Clermont, Fairfield, Lorain, Pickaway, Summit and Wood counties will be expected to wear masks in public starting at 6 p.m. Friday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced in his Thursday afternoon news conference.

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They’ll join Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Montgomery and Trumbull counties in following the statewide mask order, which applies to all counties on level three or higher of ODH’s four-tier COVID-19 alert system.

No county had yet reached the highest level — depicted on ODH’s state map in purple — by the time DeWine spoke Thursday afternoon.

But, he said, Butler, Hamilton and Cuyahoga are all close. Unless recent diagnosis trends reverse themselves by July 16, all three will be moved up to a level at which resident are advised to “only leave home for supplies and services.”

“(They’re) on the watchlist, which means basically it has met the criteria to go purple, but we are going to allow a week to elapse and look at the data again in another week before we actually move it into that purple,” DeWine said.

RELATED: This map shows every COVID-19 testing location in Hamilton County

Hamilton County recorded 1,124 new cases of COVID-19 between June 24-30, the highest ever reported in the span of a single week. The average number of daily cases doubled from 82 to 161 between June 16-30, few of them in congregate settings such as nursing homes and prisons.

Instead, DeWine said Thursday, the new cases come from “community spread,” the often-unwitting transmission that occurs during daily tasks and interactions.

Butler County reported 181 new cases during late June, also a record for the area. The average number of new cases per day doubled from 15 to 29.

And hospital beds are in short supply across the region, DeWine said Thursday. Local intensive care units have been more than 80% full for five of the last seven days.

DeWine said Ohioans still have time to reverse the diagnostic trends that drove daily state totals back over 1,000 in early July, but they can only do it if they wear masks and practice good hygiene.

"The trend lines are all the wrong direction, and we feel very strongly that — look, we’ve got to protect people," he said. "And we’ve got to — When you’re wearing a mask, you’re generally wearing it for other people. This is the thing we need to do to get us out of this. Let’s keep our eye on the ball, here."

More COVID-19 funding for education

Despite the rising numbers of COVID-19 hotspots, DeWine said the state continues to plan for schools across the state to return to in-person instruction in the fall. The state government will request a new CARES Act allocation of $200 million for its colleges and universities, plus $100 million for K-12 schools, to help administrators cover additional coronavirus-related costs during the school year.

“We intend for this funding to be flexible," DeWine said, noting that it could be used to pay additional medical staff, buy personal protective equipment or invest in distance learning options, depending on an individual school's needs.

Higher education in Ohio has already received $440 million in direct CARES funding; K-12 schools have received $190 million.