ASHLAND -- Ashland County is again designated as "red" in the state's color-coded Public Health Advisory System.
The announcement by Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Dept. of Health came on the same day the state announced all 88 counties were now considered "high incidence" for spread of the coronavirus by CDC standards.
"As of today - every single county in the state of Ohio is high incidence," DeWine said. "COVID-19 is everywhere. We can't hide from it. We have to face it.
"We have a shockingly high number of cases in the past 24 hours. 4,961 is a new record number of cases," the governor said.
The news didn't come as a surprise to Ashland County Health Department's health commissioner Heather Reffett, who predicted the color change earlier this week.
"Our health department receives reports throughout the day on positive test results in order for us to place individuals in isolation and begin the contact tracing and symptom monitoring processes. We are aware of the high number of Ashland County residents testing positive," she said.
"Recent days have shown the highest number of positive cases since our state entered into a State of Emergency in March. This designation of Red is a serious matter," she continued.
Reffett urged Ashlanders to take the designation seriously. She asked all residents, community leaders and business owners to evaluate their safety measures and make improvements as necessary.
"Again, this is beyond each of our own individual preferences but about ensuring that those we care for, whether it be employees, co-workers, neighbors or family are protected and have a healthy holiday season," she said.
On Thursday, Nov. 5, the health department reported 109 active cases of COVID-19 in Ashland County and 19 COVID-19 related deaths had been recorded. Three more death certificates were awaiting legal certificates.
To date there have been 570 COVID-19 cases in Ashland County residents. This is up from 537 on Monday, Nov. 2.
On Thursday, the health department was monitoring 365 Ashland County residents, who have been asked to quarantine.
"Please take this virus seriously. While many people may experience no symptoms at all, it is unpredictable who in our county will contract the virus and die," Reffett said. "We've seen our confirmed deaths increase from six to 20 in recent weeks and we are waiting for three additional death certificates to be signed by the attending physician.
"I do not wish for anyone to be fearful, I wish for people to be cautious and to be aware."
The Ashland Health Department advises residents to avoid social gatherings and large crowds and to wear a mask while out.
"A 'red' designation should absolutely affect the way that Ashlanders behave. It is a true sign that more of our neighbors are able to pass the virus on to others," Reffett said.
Ashland County met four of the state's indicators:
New cases per capita -- Flagged if greater than 50 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks. Ashland County reported 109 new cases in the last two weeks, or 203.8 per 100,000 residents.
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. Ashland County had five such days from Oct. 20-24, rising from 6.86 on a seven-day average to 10.
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. In the last three weeks, Ashland County has reported 100 percent, 100 percent and 90.24 percent.
Sustained increase in emergency department 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. Ashland County had seven straight days of increase, rising from 1.29 on a seven-day average of 2.71.
Richland Source Reporter Carl Hunnell contributed to this report.