COLUMBUS -- Richland County on Thursday remained "purple," or level four, in the state's color-coded COVID-19 monitoring system as Gov. Mike DeWine announced new "Stay Safe Ohio" protocols.
Richland County met six of the Public Health Advisory System's seven indicators in remaining at the most severe level of the system for the second straight week.
It is one of five "purple" counties in the state this week, down from eight last week. All five are in north central/northeast Ohio -- Richland, Medina, Portage, Stark and Summit.
Ashland, Knox and Crawford counties remained "red," or level three, though Ashland was one of two counties placed on the state's "watch list" and could become "purple" next week.
Richland County recorded 1,375 new positive coronavirus tests in the last two weeks, a record high since the pandemic reached Ohio in March. That meant the county had 1,134.92 positive tests per 100,000 residents, the fourth worst among Ohio's 88 counties.
A week ago, Richland County triggered all seven indicators. This week, it met:
-- New cases per capita -- Flagged if greater than 50 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks. Richland County was at 1,134.92, up from 296.32 on Nov. 5 and 91.62 on Oct. 5.
-- Sustained increase in new cases -- Flagged if increasing trend of at least five consecutive days in overall cases by onset date over the last three weeks. Richland County had five such days from Nov. 20-Nov. 24, rising from 95.43 to 120 on a seven-day average during the period. It has declined in recent days and was down to 84 new cases on a seven-day average on Dec. 8.
-- 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 has met this each of the past three weeks at 65 percent, 85 percent and 82 percent, respectively.
-- 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 had five such days between Nov. 21 and Nov. 25, rising from 24.86 on a seven-day average to 30.71. It has declined in recent days, down to 19.14 on Dec. 8.
-- 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. Richland County met this from Nov. 28 to Dec. 3, rising from two admissions on a seven-day average to 4.14. It has since declined to 2.29 on Dec. 18.
-- Intensive Care Unit (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. The region in which Richland County operates had seven such days between Dec. 2 and Dec. 8.
The only indicator not met this week was "sustained increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness." It has remained steady for the past week, around 75 such visits on a seven-day average.
In his bi-weekly press conference, DeWine used a variety of medical professionals to unveil his new "Stay Safe Ohio" protocols, which are largely the same guidelines the state has issued since March.
Included in the protocols are stay at home if possible; wear a mask; keep interactions with others short and maintain social distancing; washing hands; work from home if possible; celebrate the holidays in small groups and safely; avoid eating or drinking with anyone outside your household; limit travel; keep weddings and funerals safe; and and try to enjoy "safe" holiday activities.
None of the protocols are orders, though DeWine did extend his 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew until Jan. 2. It had been set to expire Thursday night.
"These are sensible steps that we can all follow -- and still be able to live our lives," DeWine said.
"COVID-19 is the single greatest threat to the physical wellbeing of all Ohioans, the mental health of our citizens, and our economic security," the governor said.
"As your Governor, I took an oath that, with it, comes the solemn responsibility to do everything I can to protect and preserve life," he said.
"This has required some really tough decisions. And I know that these decisions have impacted Ohioans in a lot of different ways. But, I also know that Ohioans can get through this if we work together and do what we need to do in these next three weeks," the governor said.
Previously, to try to limit the spread, DeWine:
· Revised the mandatory state mask order on Nov. 11 to require businesses to ensure customers and employees are wearing masks.
· Revised the order about mass gatherings in the state on Nov. 17 that prohibits public and private gatherings of greater than 10 people outside of a single residence.
· Nov. 19: Ordered all retail businesses to enforce a curfew at 10 p.m. and not to reopen until 5 a.m., a three-week order now extended to Jan. 2.
What does "purple" mean?
According to Reed Richmond, public health educator for Richland Public Health, county residents should follow the recommended guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
· Stay at home; necessary travel only.
· Wear a face covering (cloth mask) if you must be out in the public.
· Must wear a face covering (cloth mask) when entering a retail business or grocery
· Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from non-household members.
· Follow good hygiene standards, including:
· Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
· Use hand sanitizer frequently.
· Avoid touching your face.
· Cover coughs or sneezes (e.g., into a tissue, or elbow).
· Symptom self-evaluation monitoring.
· Decrease in-person interactions with others.
· Limit attending gatherings of any number.
· Conduct a daily health/symptom self-evaluation and stay at home if symptomatic.
· Seek medical care as needed, but limit or avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and residential care facilities to see others as much as possible.
For more information about the coronavirus situation in Richland County visit https://www.richlandhealth.org/ and follow the coronavirus links in the sliders.
See https://richlandhealth.org/quarantining/ for updated information on quarantining and isolation.
For more information about the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, visit http://coronavirus.ohio.gov.
If you have questions, call the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 Call Line 1-833-427-5634. The call line is open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. each day, including weekends.