MANSFIELD -- Richland County remained "red," or level three, on Thursday in the state's color-coded COVID-19 rating system, despite the fact it met two of the seven indicators.
The county has reported 158 new positive coronavirus tests in the last two weeks. In a county with a population of 121,154, that is 130.41 cases per 100,000 residents, meaning the county has a "high incidence" of the virus by CDC standards.
In the state's Public Health Advisory System, launched in July, a "high incidence" rating is a "red" ranking -- regardless of other indicators -- if the county had been level three the week before, until it drops below the high incidence threshold of over 100 cases per 100,000 over a two-week period.
This measure does not include incarcerated individuals.
Among Ohio's 88 counties, 71 were considered "high incidence" this week.
It's the first time since the pandemic reached Ohio in March that Richland County has been designated "high incidence."
Crawford County moved to "red" from "orange," or level two, on Thursday, meeting four of the seven indicators. It also had "high incidence," reporting 123 new positive tests in the last two weeks, a per capita score of 296.43.
Ashland and Knox counties remained orange Thursday, both meeting two of the seven indicators.
It's the first time for Crawford County to be ranked level three.
"The county exceeds the CDC’s threshold for high incidence and is seeing a sustained increase in new cases and outpatient visits. Local health officials said that more than a third of their cases are coming from spread between family members," Gov. Mike DeWine said during his bi-weekly press conference.
"There are small church outbreaks and two long-term care facility outbreaks, but the majority of virus transmission is coming from community spread, the health officials tell us," DeWine said.
Crawford County met these four indicators:
-- New cases per capita (296.4 cases per 100,000 residents)
-- Sustained increase in new cases (5.9 average cases on 10/3 increased to 11.7 by 10/13)
-- Proportion of cases not in a congregate setting (59 percent).
-- Sustained increase in outpatient visits (6.7 average visits on 10/4 increased to 9.1 on 10/14)
"I urge all Bucyrus and Crawford County residents to redouble efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19," Bucyrus Mayor Jeff Reser said. “We have been complacent, but now is not the time to ignore our individual efforts to take COVID-19 seriously. The health of a loved one may depend on your efforts to social distance, sanitize, and wear a mask."
Trish Factor, health commissioner for the Galion City Health Department, said the number of cases in rural areas are rising.
"We are seeing an increase in cases associated with churches and gatherings at private residences. The measures that we're able to take right now can go a long way in containing the virus, but they don't do any good if you don't practice them. It's not easy, but it's also not complicated."
This week marked the fifth time Richland County has been flagged as a "red" county, despite the fact it improved in indicator categories of sustained increase of new cases, emergency room visits, outpatient visits and hospital admissions.
"Richland County will remain at the red indicator of very high exposure and spread of COVID-19 until the cases per capita drops below 100," Richland Public Health educator Reed Richmond said.
"The other indicator met was cases in non-congregate settings," he said. "Richland County residents are encouraged to limit activities as much as possible and to follow all current health orders."