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COVID-19 in Ohio: Nearly all of Ohio is red on state's map

Emily Mills
Akron Beacon Journal
Ohio's COVID-19 map for Dec. 24, 2020.

Nearly all of Ohio's 88 counties are red in the newest version of the state's coronavirus advisory map released Thursday.

The map shows 84 of the state's 88 counties are red (Level 3) in the four-tier, color-coded Ohio Public Health Advisory System, with only four orange (Level 2) counties: Monroe, Hocking, Vinton and Gallia.

There have been no yellow (Level 1) counties for weeks.

The only change to the map from last week is that the sole purple (Level 4) county — Richland — dropped to red this week.

More:COVID-19 in Ohio: Ohioans age 65 and over, school employees will be next in line for virus vaccines, DeWine says

There were 8,828 new cases reported Thursday, an increase from Wednesday but below the 21-day average of 9,848. Another 95 deaths were reported, pushing the state's total to 8,456. The 21-day average for deaths is 81. Hospitalizations also were below the 21-day average of 384 with 320.

But two new maps detailing cases per capita by county and how many patients are filling intensive care units showed how widespread COVID-19 remains.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine await the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020.

DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health have said the original map was designed as an early warning system to measure when cases and health care use were escalating to let people know when to take increased precautions.

Now, those measures are all at an elevated plateau, so the advisory system doesn't accurately reflect the sustained high levels, the health department said.

According to the per capita map, every county in Ohio exceeds the CDC’s threshold for high incidence, which is 100 cases per 100,000 residents. Case incidence is a measure of how many cases there are in each county, adjusted for population. ODH said the information can help people understand the severity of COVID-19 transmission by county.

At the beginning of August, the statewide average of cases per capita during the previous two weeks was 101. This week, the statewide average is 769 cases per 100,000 residents during the past two weeks.

There also are seven counties that are at 1,000 or more, which means at least 1 out of every 100 residents has tested positive for COVID during the past two weeks and are at risk of spreading it to others.

According to this per capita map from the Ohio Department of Health, every county in Ohio exceeds the CDC’s threshold for high incidence, which is 100 cases per 100,000 residents.

According to a new ICU map, at the beginning of August, about 12% of Ohio’s ICU patients were COVID-19 positive, or 1 out of every 8. Now, it's up to 31%, or 1 out of every 3.

"While there are some differences across counties, most counties in Ohio have worsened on these measures since the fall and remain at unacceptably high levels of spread," ODH said in a news release. "The current impact on the healthcare system is severe and unsustainable."

According to this map from the Ohio Department of Health, at the beginning of August, about 12% of Ohio’s ICU patients were COVID-19 positive, or 1 out of every 8. Now, it's up to 31%, or 1 out of every 3.

The state health department encouraged following the "Stay Safe Ohio Protocol" to help prevent a post-holiday surge by keeping celebrations small, not dining with people outside the household and limiting holiday travel.

Coronavirus does not take holidays off, but the state numbers counters will. No daily case or death numbers will be released on Friday or New Year's Day, with two-day totals then to be posted on Saturday and Jan. 2. DeWine also did not hold a press briefing Thursday.

Last week's COVID-19 map

The map released Dec. 17.

Last week, Summit, Portage, Stark and Medina counties dropped from purple to red, while Richland stayed purple, although it dropped to red Thursday. 

A county can’t turn purple until it meets six or all seven indicators in the Public Health Advisory System for two consecutive weeks. The first week, it's red and on the watch list. Once a county turns purple, it stays there until it meets fewer than six indicators for two consecutive weeks.

Because Richland County was meeting five of the seven indicators last week and only three indicators this week, it dropped to red.

A color change from purple to red doesn't necessarily mean the situation is dramatically improving — red still indicates very high exposure and spread of the virus.

It only indicates the county's met fewer than six of the system's seven indicators — from new cases to increases in emergency department visits, outpatient visits and hospital admissions and ICU bed occupancy — for two consecutive weeks.

Purple indicates severe exposure and spread of the coronavirus, and residents in those counties were asked only to leave their homes for supplies and services.

Residents in purple counties were also asked to follow the guidelines for red counties, which include decreasing in-person interactions with others, considering necessary travel only and limiting attending gatherings of any number.

Although the designation shows the coronavirus situation in a purple county is severe, there are no orders attached.