Butler County is red again, indicating “very high exposure and spread” of COVID-19 within its borders, on the Ohio Department of Health’s statewide heat map of Ohio counties. The change, Gov. Mike DeWine said at his Thursday news conference, is strongly tied to Miami University — not the conduct of the school, which had an entirely remote start and will not allow underclassmen to move into campus housing until Sept. 14, but of the students living and partying off-campus.
About 704 Miami students have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 17. Butler County’s total case count in roughly the same amount of time: 841.
Both DeWine and Miami president Gregory Crawford, who appeared at the conference remotely, urged students — and Ohioans more generally — to resist the urge to attend unsafe social gatherings, particularly during the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
“What we do this weekend will really determine what our fall is going to look like,” DeWine said. “And we’ve got a lot at stake. We’ve got kids back at school. We’ve got college kids back in school. What we do, what we don’t do, will certainly determine the fall.”
And young people make up an increasingly large proportion of new COVID-19 cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health. In the last two weeks, adults between the ages of 18 and 22 have comprised 35-40% of COVID patients in Ohio.
They’d never made up more than 18% in any week before, including at pandemic-highs in April and early July.
This chart shows weekly case data for younger age groups from March to August. The 18-22 age group has jumped to 35-40% of all cases. To our friends in college, we ask you to be careful. You might not get seriously sick, but you can spread the virus to someone who could. pic.twitter.com/gxgiKvmhTr
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) September 3, 2020
“Those early weekends in August, we saw an uptick in parties and gatherings,” Crawford said of the situation at Miami. “I think that’s what’s responsible for the surge today. Our message to students is, ‘We put a lot of protocols in place to keep everybody safe and healthy. Now, as individuals, in order for each of us to be healthy, all of us have to be healthy.’”
Miami spokespeople announced Tuesday the school will require all of its students to be tested.
It’s not just Miami
DeWine said off-campus parties were a problem all over the state, not just in Oxford. Off-campus parties generated 78 new cases in Cincinnati, according to the governor.
Although young people are less likely to experience serious complications of COVID-19, they are still capable of developing severe cases or transmitting the virus to more vulnerable friends, family members and acquaintances.
DeWine encouraged all Ohioans — not just students — to mind themselves over Labor Day weekend and continue practicing safety measures, including mask-wearing and social distancing. In the unique circumstance of a global pandemic, he said, a household trip to a national park is far safer than a BBQ with next-door neighbors.
School reporting order
The governor also announced an order that will require schools to report all student and staff COVID-19 cases to their local health departments, which will then forward the information to the Ohio Department of Health.
“Most schools are already doing this,” he noted.
Under his order, which he said would be posted to the Ohio Department of Health’s website, parents and guardians would be required to notify their child’s school within 24 hours of receiving a positive test.
The school would then have a day to relay the news to its families and its local health department without exposing the affected child or staff member’s personal information.
According to DeWine, the Ohio Department of Health will publish district-by-district data every week, showing how many cases are in each district and how many are students.