ASHLAND -- Ashland County was placed on the state's "watch list" Thursday, triggering six of the seven indicators of concern for COVID-19 spread in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System.
The designation means Ashland County meets enough indicators to be considered at risk for reaching a "purple" status, or level 4 public emergency, in the color-coded system.
However, the system requires counties meet these criteria for two weeks in a row, ensuring a consistent trend in the data before they are labeled level four.
In Gov. Mike DeWine's update Thursday, Ashland and Guernsey Counties joined the state's watch list. Richland, Medina, Summit, Portage and Stark Counties were designated purple.
Most of Ohio remains classified as red in the state system. Only five counties are orange. None are yellow.
Ashland County recorded 471 new positive coronavirus tests in the last two weeks, which is up significantly from the 276 new cases recorded in the previous two-week span.
The only indicator Ashland County did not trigger Thursday was for sustained increase in hospital admissions. The seven-day average of hospital admissions peaked at three on Nov. 27 and has since decreased to 0.57 on Dec. 8.
All six of the other indicators were flagged.
In last week's update, Ashland County triggered four of the seven indicators.
The Indicators in Ashland
New cases per capita -- Flagged if greater than 50 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks.
In Ashland County, there have been 471 new cases in the past two weeks, or 880.64 cases per capita. This is up from 276 new cases in the previous two week span, or 516.07 per capita.
Sustained increase in new cases -- Flagged if there is an increasing trend of at least 5 consecutive days in overall cases by the onset date over the last three weeks.
On Dec. 8, the seven-day case average was 33.86. The highest seven-day case average shown in the recent report was 45.57 cases on Dec. 6.
This indicator was not flagged in last week's report, as the seven-day case average had previously dropped from 36.71 on Nov. 18 to 23.57 on Nov. 28.
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.
Ashland County’s non-congregate case rate has exceeded 86 percent over the last three weeks. This compares to a low of 72.19 percent in last week's report.
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.
In this week's report, Ashland County saw its seven-day average of ED visits peak at 10.29 on Nov. 30.
Sustained increase in Outpatient Visits -- 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.
In this week's report, Ashland County saw its seven-day average of outpatient visits peak at 16.43 on Dec. 6.
ICU Bed occupancy -- Flagged when the percentage of ICU beds in a region goes above 80 percent for three or more days in the previous week with more than 20 percent of the ICU beds being used for COVID-19 positive patients also for three or more days.
From Dec. 2 through Dec. 8, the percentage of ICU beds used in region five was as low as 80.69 percent on Dec. 7 and as high as 86.17 percent on Dec. 2. This compares to last week's report with a low of 77.60 on Nov. 25 and as high as 85.36 on Dec. 1.
The percentage of COVID-19 positive ICU patients ranged from 25.05 percent on Dec. 5 to 28.32 percent on Dec. 6. This compares to last week's range of 24.45 percent to 26.45 percent.
This region includes Ashland, Richland, Wayne and 10 other counties within Northeastern Ohio.
State unveils Stay Safe Ohio Protocol
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.