During his COVID-19 press briefing today, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that 12 Ohio counties are now in the Level 3: Red alert phase of the state's new Public Health Advisory Alert System.
The four levels of severity in system — Level 1: Yellow; Level 2: Orange; Level 3: Red; and Level 4: Purple — are determined by seven data indicators that build on the current baseline risk, with three additional measurements.
Level 1: Yellow — At this level there is active exposure and spread, but a county has triggered zero indicators. The recommendation at Level 1 is to follow the usual COVID-19 guidelines we all know — wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask in public places, etc.
Level 2: Orange — This means there is an increased amount of exposure and spread. Residents here should exercise a high degree of caution. In addition to standard COVID safety, Level 2 residents should avoid contact with anyone considered high risk, decrease in-person interactions in general and limit or avoid unnecessary trips to visit people in hospital, nursing homes or residential care.
Level 3: Red — This means there is a very high exposure and spread of COVID and the county has triggered four or five indicators. This means there are many cases of community spread present — in workplaces, social settings, long-term care facilities. In addition to regular COVID safety guidelines, residents in these counties should limit activities as much as possible, wear a mask when they go out, consider online options, consider necessary travel only and limit attending gatherings of any kind.
The 12 counties currently under a "Red" alert are Wood County, Lorain County, Trumbull County, Summit County, Franklin County, Pickaway County, Fairfield County, Montgomery County and Clermont County. Cuyahoga County, Butler County and Hamilton County are in Red but are listed on the watchlist to become Purple.
Level 4: Purple — Counties in Level 4 have triggered six or seven indicators. This means there is severe exposure and spread. Ohioans in Level 4 should only leave home as necessary.
NEW RISK LEVEL MAP: 12 counties have triggered enough indicators to be at Red Alert Level 3. Three of those counties are on the watch list, meaning they are close to reaching Level 4: Butler, Cuyahoga, Hamilton.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) July 9, 2020
Franklin Co. dropped off the watch list. Huron now a Level 2. pic.twitter.com/59M9Yl4vT6
As of today, there are 905 COVID-19 patients in Ohio hospitals. On June 26, there were 619. The state's positivity rate on July 7 — or the percent of tests that have come back as confirmed to have COVID-19 — was 6.4%, the highest rate since May 25.
DeWine said each week he will be updating the state's color coding alert levels based on Wednesday's data.
Based on that information, both Hamilton County and Butler County have joined a watchlist to potentially move from Red to Purple counties. Clermont County has been added as a Red county.
DeWine said counties on the watchlist have "basically met the criteria to go purple but we're going to allow a week to elapse and look at the data again in another week before we actually move it in to that purple (on the map)."
He also said that COVID data from July 1 onward is still fluid, so they are referring to data until June 30 because reporting is still coming in from the period after that.
From 6-16 and 6-30, visits for #COVID19 to the ER doubled from an average of 11 per day to 22. Between 6-16 and 7-2, the average outpatient visits more than tripled from 52 to 172 visits per day.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) July 9, 2020
DeWine also said that in recent weeks more than 86% of the cases are not in congregate settings and Hamilton County has also hit a new threshold for the overall utilization rate for regional Intensive Care Unit beds, which exceeded 80% in five of last seven days. That ICU metric is regional and also impacted Butler and Clermont counties' numbers and rank.
You can see the full report for Hamilton County at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
For Butler County, its numbers also increased. DeWine noted again that due to reporting lags, these numbers may increase.
From 6-16 and 7-4, visits for #COVID19 symptoms to the ER tripled from an average of 2 per day to 7. Between 6-16 and 7-7, the average outpatient visits more than doubled from 15 to 38 visits per day.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) July 9, 2020
You can see the full Butler County report at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
In Clermont County, the average number of COVID cases per day doubled from 4 to 9 between June 16-30, and more than 94% of cases are not in a congregate setting. See the full Clermont County report at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
After a reporter asked, to paraphrase, why there wasn't a green color on the map and why these new mask mandates seemed to be a type of fear mongering, DeWine said people shouldn't be afraid, that he's just trying to give objective data by county every week and he hopes the colors change to yellow, not red or purple.
"This is not about fear. This is about us controlling our future, Ohioans controlling their own destiny and they need information to do that," he said.
The Ohio Department of Health mask mandate will go into effect for the new Level 3: Red counties at 6 p.m. July 10, that includes Clermont County.
Huron County, which moved into Yellow, has had its mask order removed.