COLUMBUS, Ohio — As almost every county in Ohio continues to see high numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, indicating high levels of community spread, Gov. Mike DeWine said on Tuesday that he will begin hosting meetings with county leaders while urging Ohioans to continue following the advice of their local and state health officials and avoid gatherings of any size.
There is now a high incidence of COVID-19 in 82 of Ohio’s 88 counties, defined as having 100 or more cases per 100,000 residents reported within the last two weeks. Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Clarke counties are on the purple Level 4 watch list, and if the risk-level indicators continue to be met on Thursday, they will be upgraded to the most severe level of COVID-19 risk on the state’s Public Health Advisory System.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in Ohio hospitals has also reached a new peak in recent weeks.
“It is cause and effect as the virus spreads in the community from gatherings where people aren't wearing masks or aren't social distancing,” DeWine said. "It is directly impacting our ability to keep our schools open, directly impacting our ability to protect our elderly, those who are ill, who are in our nursing homes. And it directly impacts our hospitals. And if it continues and we possibly can see our hospitals overrun (which are) things that we've seen on TV but have not yet experienced in Ohio and something that we certainly do not want to experience again.”
DeWine called on Ohioans to do what he’s been telling them to do for the better part of this year.
“We do need to stick to our game plan,” DeWine said. "Because we know it works well. When we stick together, we always win.”
The governor repeated the advice that public health officials have been stressing for months:
- mask up when out in public and with friends
- keep your distance
- wash your hands often
- increase ventilation of outside air into buildings
- reconsider hosting or attending gatherings of any size
When asked whether Ohioans should expect to see another shutdown, DeWine held firm, saying that a complete shutdown of the state would have too many negative consequences to the state’s businesses and the mental health of residents.
“We just can't do it twice, he said, “Or we certainly don't want to do it. We want to avoid doing it twice. And so, the game plan, I've outlined today, very short, very simple, very easy, will get us out of this. We will not have to shut down. But if we don't do this and if we don't fight this battle county by county, city by city, village by village -- we do not fight in that way -- we will, one way or the other, be shut down and shut down because the spread will be so bad.”
DeWine said that beginning Tuesday, he will begin meetings with the leadership of Ohio’s counties, starting with the three on the watch list for Level 4 and working his way down through the highest-incidence counties.
“We'll do a Zoom call, we'll bring people together, DeWine said. “And we'll just kind of talk, and we'll exchange ideas. I'll be there, my team will be there to listen to your concerns.”
DeWine said the state will continue to offer support to counties, including increased rapid testing, additional personal protective equipment, contact tracing help and ventilation guidance.
“Each community really needs to reassess right now, what it is doing, and what it can do in the future,” DeWine said. “We are at a critical stage. Review certainly should include county commissioners, mayor's health commissioners, school and hospital leaders, college leaders, other community leaders, including those from the faith-based community, from business, and from the nonprofit sector.”
DeWine closed his Tuesday briefing with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt.
“’Much has been given us. And much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves, and we can shirk neither,’” he said. “It's time for us to go to battle and to go defeat the virus.”