Butler County has been taken off the state’s coronavirus watch list for a possible move to Level 4, the most severe level, but Gov. Mike DeWine said case numbers are still increasing.
DeWine said even though Butler County was moved off the watch list for a possible move to Level 4′s color of purple, “the county continues to be red, as it has been. The number of cases in Butler County is still increasing but a slightly lower pace than the previous week.” He said in the past two weeks, there have been more cases in Butler County than in the entire country of Denmark (242).
As of Wednesday, the Butler County General Health District reported 1,996 confirmed and probable cases in the county, a 17 percent increase from the week prior on July 8. That matched the same percent increase in total cases from July 1 to 8 when Butler County was on the verge of being Level 4 in the DeWine Administration’s new color-coded COVID-19 public emergency alert system.
They remain at Level 3 in the four-level COVID-19 alert system with six other counties. Though Butler County’s spread is slightly slowing, the county is one of 19 now at Level 3 which requires masks to be worn in public buildings and interacting with people outside a household. Those 19 counties under a mask order represent 60 percent of Ohio’s 11.69 million estimated population, DeWine said.
The governor said Ohio is where Florida — a state that’s seen a record-setting spike in COVID-19 cases — was a month ago.
“The main reason for wearing the mask is to protect others, but it also provides protection for yourself."
- Dr. Andrew Thomas, OSU Wexner Medical Center chief clinical officer
As of Thursday, there have been more than 70,600 confirmed and probable novel coronavirus in Ohio, and more than 9,300 required patients being hospitalized. It’s presumed that 48,330 people have recovered from the virus, however, more than 2,800 confirmed cases of people who died from COVID-19. It’s suspected another 254 people also died due to the virus. Nearly three dozen Butler County residents have died due COVID-19, as of Wednesday.
The color-coded map is an early warning indicator, not unlike a weather alert system when severe weather approaches an area, said Thomas.
Most of the state is at a Level 1, which is yellow on the color-coded map. It means there are no or one of seven indicators present in the county. Level 2, or orange means there are two or three indicators. Level 3 means four or five of the seven indicators are present in the county, and Level 4, which is purple, means six or all seven indicators are present.
If a county is at Level 4, Thomas said, “the storm is there and the winds are blowing really hard, and if something isn’t done about it, it will continue to worsen.”
“The reason none of the counties are green is because no matter what county you live in you are at risk for contracting COVID-19,” he said. “There is activity, to some degree, across the entire state. Until we have a vaccine, or until we have a pharmacologic medication treatment that is known to stop the incidents of the disease and the spread of the disease, no county really will be anything but less than yellow. No matter where you live, you are at risk for this.”
In DeWine’s message to Ohio Wednesday, the governor pleaded that Ohioans stay vigilant and wear their masks because “the jury’s in” and the medical community confirm that “masks do make a difference.”
Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at the OSU Wexner Medical Center, said masks do protect the wearer as well as the general public. He said while masks protect people from potentially spreading the virus, as well as other infectious bacteria, “you wearing a mask can also protect you from those droplets that are in the air because that person is not wearing the mask correctly or they’re not wearing one at all.”
“The main reason for wearing the mask is to protect others, but it also provides protection for yourself,” Thomas said.
WHAT DO THE COLORS MEAN?
The state instituted a color system to indicate the severity of risk each county possesses for contracting COVID-19. The system is based on a group of seven metrics designed to be an early warning system. Dr. Andrew Thomas, OSU Wexner Medical Center chief clinical officer, said metrics include counts of new cases per capita over a two-week span, increase or decrease in symptoms, symptomatic surveillance, cases in congregate and non-congregate settings:
Yellow (Level 1): None or one of the seven indicators are present in the county.
Orange (Level 2): Two or three of the seven indicators are present in the county. More cases or incidents of people with COVID-19, or cases in a congregate area has developed into community spread.
Red (Level 3): Four or five of the seven indicators are present in the county. Community spread is present and per capita cases are increasing. Masks are required in public in these counties when around non-family members.
Purple (Level 4): Six or all seven of the indicators are present in the county. The most concerning because “it’s there and bad,” and if nothing is done it will continue to worsen.