MANSFIELD -- The spread of COVID-19 in Richland County has reached unprecedented levels, earning the county a spot on the state’s “watch list” for a level four public health advisory.
On Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Health announced that Richland was one of 11 counties to be placed on watch -- meaning it met at least six of the seven indicators of concern for COVID-19 spread.
Full reports released late Thursday revealed the county has met all seven indicators in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System.
Each indicator is explained below.
New cases per capita -- Flagged if greater than 50 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks. In Richland County, there have been 885 new cases over the past two weeks, or 730.48 per capita.
New cases increase -- Flagged if increasing trend of at least 5 consecutive days in overall cases by onset date over the last three weeks. On Nov. 4, there was a seven-day average of 42.71 new cases. That figure peaked at 77.43 on Nov. 22.
Proportion of cases not in a congregate setting -- Flagged if proportion of cases that are not in a congregate setting goes over 50 percent in at least one of the last three weeks. Richland County’s non-congregate case rate has exceeded 97 percent over the last three weeks. Last week it was 100 percent.
Sustained increase in Emergency Department (ED) visits for COVID-like illness -- Flagged if increasing trend of at least five consecutive days in the number of visits to the emergency department with COVID-like illness or a diagnosis over the last three weeks. Richland County has more than doubled its seven-day average of ED visits over the last three weeks, from 12 visits on Nov. 4 to 28.57 on Nov. 28.
Sustained increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness -- Flagged if increasing trend of at least five consecutive days in the number of people going to a health care provider with COVID symptoms who then receive a COVID confirmed or suspected diagnosis over the last three weeks. Richland County has seen a steady increase here, going from a seven-day average of 37.57 visits on Nov. 4 to 69.29 on Nov. 24.
Sustained increase in hospital admissions -- Flagged if increasing trend of at least five consecutive days in the number of new hospitalizations due to COVID over the last three weeks. This is the only indicator in which Richland County’s numbers appear to be trending down. The seven-day average for hospital admissions spiked from 1.71 on Nov. 12 to 4.29 on Nov. 17, but has since gone down. On Nov. 24, the seven day average was 0.71.
ICU Bed Occupancy -- Flagged if the percentage of occupied ICU beds in each region goes above 80 percent for at least three days in the last week AND more than 20 percent of ICU beds are being used for COVID-19 positive patients for at least three days in the last week. From Nov. 18 to 24, the percentage of ICU beds used in our region was 80 percent or higher, peaking at 84.55 percent on Nov. 24. The percentage of COVID-19 positive ICU patients ranged from 22.11 percent to 26.1 percent.
Richland County almost went purple in October after outbreaks at RICI and MANCI prisons, but public health educator Reed Richmond said the situation this time is much different.
"It is unlikely that we can dial the numbers down in just one week,” the Richland Public Health spokesperson said Wednesday.
When Richland County was placed on the state’s Watch List on Oct. 1, it was one of the few red counties in the state. The number of new cases over the previous two weeks at that time was less than 100. The percentage of non-congregate cases hovered around the 50 percent mark and COVID positive patients made up just 5 percent of those in intensive care units.
On Thanksgiving Day, 75 Ohio counties were red and four were purple. Richland County’s two-week case count was 885 -- more than nine times what it was at the beginning of October. The non-congregate case rate was above 97 percent for the last three weeks. COVID-positive patients made up between 20 and 26 percent of those in the ICU.
“Everyone needs to step up and do the right thing: wear your mask if you have to go out, avoid gatherings of any size, and wash hands frequently," Richmond said. "It's long past time to step up and protect our most vulnerable citizens and do what we can to keep the health services and emergency responders in Richland County from being overwhelmed."