CLEVELAND — After months of relatively stable numbers of daily COVID-19 cases in Ohio, it’s difficult to conceptualize just how quickly the spread of new cases in Ohio accelerated over just the last few weeks.
We’re going to try anyway.
On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted provided some statistics that underscored the unprecedented rapid increase in cases.
“We've heard a lot of statistics. It's always hard to know which ones to use,” Husted said during the state’s coronavirus briefing. “But…it took us five months to get to our first 100,000 cases, and we’ve had 100,000 cases of virus spread over the last three weeks. That puts in perspective about what we're confronting now.”
News 5 has been tracking the number of new daily cases reported each day by the Ohio Department of Health since March, and the total COVID-19 chart clearly shows how we went from a relatively stable linear slope over the summer to a rapidly rising exponential curve.
Viewed another way, the timeline below shows the first day Ohio reported more than 1,000 daily cases, then more than 2,000, and so on.
It took nearly six months – April to October – to go from over 1,000 cases reported in a day to over 2,000 cases reported in a day.
The first time Ohio reported over 3,000 cases was less than two weeks later.
Three days, later, on Nov. 3, Ohio first reported over 4,000 daily cases. Three days after that, 5,008 daily cases were reported.
Last week, it took just one day for Ohio to go from reporting over 7,000 daily cases to reach its new daily case record: 8,071.
“You know, these numbers are just shocking,” DeWine said Tuesday, in reference to the “astronomical numbers” in the state’s highest-incidence counties. “It means that one out of 100 people in the last two weeks was diagnosed with COVID. So just think about the odds, and we know that's always lower than — not everybody's diagnosed. Not everyone has the test. And so what that means is that dramatically increases the chance of someone in those counties running into somebody who does, in fact, have COVID.”
So what caused this unprecedented rise in cases across the state? On Wednesday, Dr. Carla O’Day, an emergency medicine specialist in Dayton who spoke at a news conference with Gov. DeWine, provided her theory.
“We've seen an incredible increase in the number of COVID tests and cases in the state of Ohio,” she said. “In September, we were seeing about a thousand a day statewide. We're now seeing close to 8,000 statewide, and it’s not real clear what happened. Some of us in emergency medicine think it's from Halloween. The timing is right. It takes about two weeks for this virus once you've been exposed to really take over in your body. So we think about two weeks and that would be Halloween. And there were lots of Halloween parties.”
If a holiday was responsible for this rapid acceleration, could the next holiday lead to another massive increase in cases? State officials believe so, and they have been vocal about asking Ohioans to rethink their Thanksgiving plans.
“Make them small or skip it this year, because, you know, next year it's going to be much, much better because we will have had the vaccine and we will have a certain level of immunity in the community," O'Day said. "But this year is different. It's now up to us.”
While for many, that may mean canceling their plans to travel out of town for Thanksgiving, Husted shared how he plans to safely celebrate the holiday:
“We made a family plan. Our families are all going to limit our exposure between now and Thanksgiving. We decided that we would have Thanksgiving outside this year.
“Now, I know that can be weather-dependent, so we're going to be flexible. Maybe it'll be the day before Thanksgiving. It might be on Thanksgiving, might be the day after Thanksgiving based on whether the weather will allow us to or will cooperate and allow us to do that.
“And we're going to space everybody out, have every family set at their individual table in our in our normal family group. But we're all going to be together just a little farther apart than usual. And we know that this will dramatically reduce the chance that my mom and dad will get the virus or be exposed to the virus and know it won't be a Thanksgiving, as usual. But with the right attitude, it will be a great Thanksgiving.”
On Wednesday, DeWine said that while the news of an effective vaccine gives hope that the pandemic is nearing its conclusion, it’s important that Ohioans do not get complacent because of this development.
“But for the first time, we now have great confidence that this vaccine is here. It's going to be used and it's going to take us out of this great tragedy,” DeWine said. “But – but, we have a few months to go. And so we all together have to build a bridge. We're in the process now of building a bridge to get us to that time in the future. And what we do in the next several weeks as Ohioans will determine if we can really build this bridge and if we can slow the spread of this virus down. So we have taken some actions in the last week that should help. But the most important thing is what each individual, Ohioan does.”