COLUMBUS, Ohio — During the weekly update of the newly created Ohio Public Health Advisory System, two Northeast Ohio counties — Summit and Lorain — have moved up to Level 3 COVID-19 risk, and Cuyahoga County has been added to a watchlist for approaching the highest risk level, DeWine announced on Thursday.
DeWine confirmed Thursday that all counties in Ohio that are new Level 3 will be under a face mask mandate, among other measures, beginning Friday at 6 p.m.
Cuyahoga County has been listed at Level 3 since the system was announced on July 2, but on Thursday DeWine announced that the county is on the verge of tipping into the Level 4 category.
The decision to add Cuyahoga County to the state’s watchlist come due to the increase in weekly COVID-19 cases in Cuyahoga County — 999 from June 24 to June 30 — the average new cases in the day doubling from 66 to 151 between June 16 to June 28, the average of emergency room visits more than doubling from 19 per day to 50 between June 16 to July 1, the average hospital admissions per day doubling from seven on June 16 to 20 on July 2, and the average number of outpatient visits for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients increasing from 41 to 233 between June 16 and July 1.
In addition to Cuyahoga County being marked on the state’s watchlist, several other Northeast Ohio moved from Level 2 up to Level 3, including Summit, Lorain and Trumbull counties, DeWine announced.
Moving up to a higher level means that in each of those counties four to five of the seven key indicators listed by the state have been flagged in the county. Level 3 counties are instructed to limit activities when possible and wear a mask when in public.
In Summit County, new cases increased, as did emergency room visits and outpatient visits. DeWine attributed the increase of COVID-19 in the county to faith-based settings, workplaces, and long-term care facilities.
Donna Skoda, Commissioner with Summit County Health, told News 5 three major factors played a role in plummeting her county into a level three red alert status.
“It’s that sustained increase over those five days," Skoda said.
“It’s looking at the number of cases that are not occurring in a congregate living situation. Meaning long-term care, a jail, a group home.”
“Our outpatient visits have increased. So we were pretty much tracking around 11 per day for COVID related systems, and now we’re at 29 per day.”
“If we can get people to wear a mask 80% of the time in public, we have a fighting chance of cutting this to almost next to nothing.”
“So it’s serious and we need to take it seriously. We don’t want to become like Texas, or California, or Arizona.”
Greta Johnson, Summit County Assistant Chief of Staff, told News 5 Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro met with 31 other county townships and municipalities on July 7, urging them to enact mask mandates of their own.
“I think everyone wants our children to go back to school safely this fall," Johnson said.
“I think she is hopeful that we will not be looking at another shutdown of businesses that have been hit, including small businesses.”
Trumbull County also saw increases in COVID-19 cases, emergency room visits and hospitalizations. DeWine attributed the increases in Trumbull County to an apartment complex outbreak and outbreaks at several longterm care facilities.
While 18 Ohio counties moved up a level, Huron County, which was previously listed at Level 3, moved down to Level 2, DeWine announced. He confirmed that now that Huron is out of Level 3, face masks will no longer be mandated there.
Following DeWine's order Thursday afternoon, the Lorain County Sheriff's Office announced on Facebook that it is asking residents to avoid calling its dispatch center to report individuals who are not wearing masks.
"Until we receive clarification and direct instructions on enforcement of this order, we can not respond to calls of this nature," LCSO stated.
However, LCSO said that businesses can ask you to leave a store if you are not wearing a mask, and if you refuse to leave, local law enforcement will get involved.
There are four levels with seven indicators, with three more to come, to determine the level an area is in, DeWine said.
The four levels include:
- Level 1 - Yellow: Zero or one indicator have been flagged active spread exposure, All current health guidelines to be followed as ordered. 53 counties are currently listed at Level
- Level 2 - Orange: Two or three indicators have been flagged, there is an increased risk for exposure and spread. There are 28 counties currently listed at Level 2.
- Level 3 - Red: Four or five indicators have been flagged, there is a very high risk for exposure and spread. Ohioans should limit activities when possible and wear a mask in public. As of Thursday, counties that are Level 3 include: Cuyahoga County, Trumbull County, Huron County, Butler County, Montgomery County, Hamilton County, Franklin County
- Level 4 - Purple: Six to seven indicators have been flagged, there is severe exposure and spread. Residents in these counties should stay home as much as possible. No counties are currently listed at Level 4, but Franklin County has been flagged as approaching this level.
The seven data indicators are:
- New cases per capita - When the data shows that a county has had an average of 50 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period, that will trigger a flag for increasing case rate.
- Sustained new case growth - If the data shows at least a five-day period of sustained new case growth, that will trigger a flag.
- Proportion of cases that are non-congregate cases - When there are a large number of positive cases from those living in the broader community, more than 50% of new cases originating from non-congregate settings during at least one of the past three weeks, that will trigger a flag on this indicator.
- Sustained increase in emergency room visits - When there is an increase in the number of people who visit an emergency department with COVID-19 symptoms or COVID diagnoses over a five day period, that will trigger a flag on this indicator.
- Sustained increase in outpatient visits - When there is an increase over a five-day period in the number of people in outpatient settings, including telehealth appointments, with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 symptoms, that will trigger a flag on this indicator.
- Sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions - When the numbers show at least a five-day period of sustained growth in the number of county residents with COVID-19 who are admitted to a hospital, the county will be flagged for meeting this indicator.
- Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed occupancy- A county will be flagged for the indicator when the regional ICU occupancy goes above 80% for at least three of the last seven days.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Trumbull County was newly moved to Level 3 on July 9. It was made a Level 3 county the previous week.