During his COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday (June 18), Gov. Mike DeWine said that several counties in Southwest Ohio were experiencing a "worrisome" uptick in COVID-19 cases. And he's recommending people in those counties, specifically in concentrated hot spots, get a coronavirus test.
“What we have been seeing is statewide a downward trend,” said DeWine. “But the exception of that is Southwest Ohio.”
“The trendlines that we are seeing in these five counties are worrisome.”
Those five affected counties are Hamilton County, Warren County, Montgomery County, Greene County and Clark County (DeWine said this was due to an outbreak among Dole plant workers, who live in the county, and an outbreak in a nursing home there).
DeWine broke down the numbers by Zip Code in each county to show specific hot spots.
In Hamilton County, those zip codes are 45231 (North College Hill, Mount Healthy), 45240 (Forest Park, parts of Springdale) and 45238 (Covedale, Delhi).
Hamilton County hot spots. (Updated to correct zip code) pic.twitter.com/PlwvlSVN3N— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) June 19, 2020
In Warren County, those Zip Codes are 45036 (Lebanon, Monroe) and 45040 (Mason, Kings Mills).
Cases by zip code in Warren County. pic.twitter.com/fing6bdvJz— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) June 18, 2020
“None of this should come as a real shock," DeWine said. "We’re going to see hot spots; we’re going to see increases in cases at different times, probably in different parts of the state. But seeing it move up in Southwest Ohio is something we clearly need to respond to."
That response, which will be applied to future county hot spots, includes increasing the National Guard testing sites and pop-ups, specifically putting testing pop-ups in those impacted Zip Codes.
“We’re in a new phase now. We’re at a phase where to be aggressive, we have to test more," said DeWine. "And we now have the capability of testing more — that capacity continues to go up — so we now can test anybody. Anybody who wants a test. Particularly if you live in one of these zip codes, we would ask you to get a test.”
He said information about new testing pop-ups and sites would be coming in the next several days.
Currently, there's a free pop-up testing center at CityLink in the West End. And Hamilton County Public Health has also created a link to view current testing sites in the county, which includes whether or not you need an appoint or doctor's referral for each.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, June 17, interim health commissioner for Hamilton County Public Health Greg Kesterman also discussed the county’s COVID-19 numbers.
He specifically focused on Hamilton County’s reproductive number — or the amount of people one infected individual will infect with COVID-19. As of Wednesday, that number was 1.45 for the county and 1.10 for the region — an upward trend Kesterman said.
“If the reproductive value is greater than 1, we continue to see spread of an outbreak,” Kesterman said. “When it goes below 1, the outbreak is slowly dying.”
But he also said that with increased testing comes more confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“We are now seeing more young people with COVID tests coming back positive and we know that COVID is not as deadly for the younger generations as it is for the elderly,” he said.
Kesterman said the important data points to watch are hospitalizations, deaths and intensive care unit admissions. He said those have been “hopping around” but staying below the benchmark.
Statewide, there have been 43,122 total cases, 7,104 hospitalizations, 2,633 deaths and 1,807 ICU admissions as of Thursday afternoon.
At the end of the press conference, Kesterman reminded the public: “Social distancing is critical for controlling the spread of COVID-19.
"If we are out and about, please be considerate of others and wear those face masks," he said. "And, lastly, don’t forget the importance of hand washing. If you don’t have access to a hand sink, use sanitizer.”
He also noted that the county had increased its supply of PPE, so if there is an uptick in hospitalizations, frontline workers have access to that.