Butler, Warren counties now at ‘high’ community COVID-19 level

In this photo, a Middletown Schools employee gets a COVID-19 vaccination shot. FILE

Combined ShapeCaption
In this photo, a Middletown Schools employee gets a COVID-19 vaccination shot. FILE

CDC recommends masks for all people in public indoor spaces in this situation

As cases increase throughout the state, the CDC is classifying more southwest Ohio counties as having “high” COVID Community Levels — including Butler, Hamilton and Warren counties.

When determining community levels, the CDC looks at the number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the past week as well as new COVID hospital admissions and the percent of staffed inpatient hospital beds occupied by coronavirus patients.

“High” means that a county has over 200 cases per 100,000 people, more than 10 hospital admissions per 100,000 people, and over 10% of the county’s staffed inpatient beds filled with COVID patients.

Butler County saw a 16% increase in new hospital admissions despite only a 2% increase in weekly coronavirus cases, according to CDC data.

Erin Smiley, the health promotion director for Butler County’s General Health District, said a high COVID community level “...means that the amount of COVID-19 circulating in the community and the burden on our healthcare systems warrant additional precautions.”

“Our first recommendation is to be up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines which makes one less likely to have severe complications that could result in hospitalization or death,” Smiley said, adding a recommendation to wear masks while indoors.

Approximately 58.6% of the state of Ohio is considered fully vaccinated, according to the Ohio Department of Health. With the exception of Warren County—of which approximately 64.56% is fully vaccinated—most of the Miami Valley lags behind the state average.

Within the region, vaccination rates vary from 38.37% and 47.28% in Darke and Miami counties, respectively, to 51.36% and 56.79% in Clark and Butler counties, respectively. Montgomery and Greene counties, which have continued to remain at high community levels, have vaccination rates of 55.55% and 55.41%.

Previously, Greene and Montgomery counties were the only two local counties at a high community level. But with Thursday’s latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Butler, Clark, Champaign, Darke, Miami, Preble and Warren, Hamilton counties were also moved to high.

On Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 26,610 cases were added to the state’s total in the last week. It’s the second week in a row Ohio has recorded more than 20,000 cases.

In the state’s most recent variant data from June 19 through July 2, more than 99% of Ohio’s cases were attributed to four different omicron variants. Omicron BA.5 made up the majority of cases at 45.8%, followed by omicron BA.2.12.1 accounting for 31.3% of cases, according to ODH. Omicron BA.2 and omicron BA.4 accounted for 11.64% and 10.69% cases respectively.

Ohio uses genomic sequencing to determine the variant, but it can only be performed on PCR tests with a high enough viral load.

Statewide, the number of hospital patients with COVID increased by 13% in the last week, with west central Ohio recording a 32% increase and southwest Ohio recording a 4% increase, according to the Ohio Hospital Association. There were 1,166 people hospitalized with COVID in Ohio as of Thursday.

About 42% of counties across the country have a high COVID community level — a marked increase from the 6.5% of counties last week. Today, there are 37.6% of counties with a medium community level and 20.4% at a low community level.

Those who are in close contact with someone who is at a high risk for severe illness should consider self-testing before being in contact with them or wearing a mask when indoors with them.