Hamilton County got a star this week from the Ohio Department of Health — and it's not the good kind.
During Thursday's weekly review of the color coding on the Public Health Advisory System map, Hamilton County turned red with a star, indicating we meet enough markers to turn purple. The star indicates we're on the watch list to officially change colors, which will happen next week if our COVID metrics don't decline.
Purple is a level 4 warning — the worst — indicating severe exposure and spread with recommendations that the public leave home only for supplies and services.
HAMILTON COUNTY: Hamilton County returns to the watch list this week. The county exceeds the CDC’s threshold for high incidence and is seeing growth in new cases and hospital admissions.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) October 22, 2020
According to Gov. Mike DeWine, "(Hamilton County) health department officials said that they had more new cases reported during the past weekend than any other weekend and are reporting the highest numbers of cases and hospitalizations than they have had at any point during the entire pandemic."
The community spread seems to be coming primarily from social gatherings and family get togethers. DeWine said, in terms of school, "Anecdotally, we're just not seeing a lot of spread directly in the classroom."
Warren and Butler County continue to be red this week, and Clermont County is marked as orange (a level 2 and less severe than red or purple).
So far no counties have officially turned purple in Ohio.
Hamilton County meets six of the seven metrics used to determine colors on the map. To turn purple, you must meet six or seven of those thresholds.
DeWine said the state has no official mandates for what happens in terms of restrictions when a county goes purple.
He said he does not want to order schools to close, himself, if the county goes purple but said that teachers, school districts and parents can decide what this data means to them. According to Cincinnati Public Schools' COVID tracker, 20 staff and six students have tested positive for COVID from Oct. 11 to Oct. 22.
"For those of my fellow Ohioans who have said 'it doesn't impact me,' 'it's not in my county,' or 'if it's in my county, it's not spread very much and I'm going to take my chance and when it gets serious, I'll get serious about it. But until then, don't bother me.' What I'm saying today is, it's time to pay attention," DeWine said. "It is serious now. It is getting worse by the minute."
He said that we're not living in some totalitarian state and the government is not going to come knocking on your door making sure you aren't have a party and are wearing your mask, but you should follow the basics of social distancing, mask use and washing your hands to help control the pandemic.
"Ultimately, there's personal responsibility here," he said. "Ohioans are pragmatic people. We're tough. We're strong. We get serious when it's time to get serious. It's time to get serious."