On Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) upgraded Highland County to a orange county, which represents a level 2 public health emergency with increased risk COVID-19 exposure and spread.
In a Thursday post on the Highland County Health Department’s Facebook page, health commissioner Jared Warner said the county was upgraded after triggering two out of the seven indicators — the proportion of cases in a non-congregate setting, like nursing homes, and the percentage of occupied ICU beds — which the ODH uses to assess risk.
In regard to the proportion of cases in a non-congregate setting, listed as “Indicator 3” on the ODH website, Warner wrote, “This indicator is flagged if the proportion of cases that are not in a congregate setting goes over 50 percent in at least one of the last 3 weeks. Used as indicator of greater risk of community spread.”
In regard to the percentage of occupied ICU beds, listed as “Indicator 7” on the ODH website, Warner wrote, “The SW Ohio Region is above 80 percent ICU capacity. This indicator is flagged if percentage of the occupied ICU beds in each region goes above 80 percent for at least three days in the last week. Provides an indication of the capacity available to manage a possible surge of severely ill patients.”
Other risk indicators include the number of new cases per capita; a sustained increase in new cases; a sustained increase in emergency room visits, where patients exhibit a COVID-like illness or are diagnosed with COVID-19; a sustained increase in outpatient visits involving patients with COVID-like symptoms who then receive a confirmed or suspected diagnosis; and a sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions.
For more information about these indicators, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/public-health-advisory-system/.
However, the Highland County Health Department, Warner said, was expecting the ODH to upgrade Highland County this week.
“Highland County has only had a single nursing home case in our community, which means that when we saw an increase in new cases over the past weekend, it was likely to trigger this indicator. These cases are primarily due to community spread,” Warner wrote. “Our overall case counts remain low, and we need to work together to keep it that way!”
As of Thursday, Highland County had 13 actively sick patients, one of whom was hospitalized, and the health department was monitoring 51 others for symptoms, according to the Highland County Health Department. In the meantime, those 51 people were in quarantine.
Overall, Highland County has seen 57 lab-confirmed and eight probable cases of COVID-19. There have been a total of nine hospitalizations and one death; 51 patients have recovered.
The health department noted that the CDC defines probable cases as cases that include clinical presentation, an epidemiological link, or an FDA-approved antigen or antibody test. Antibody tests are counted separately from lab-confirmed cases.
Also on Thursday, Athens, Allen, Delaware, Licking, Lucas, Richland, Scioto and Union counties were upgraded to red counties, which represents a level 3 public emergency with a very high level of COVID-19 exposure and spread, according to a press release from the Office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
The residents of these newly upgraded counties, as well as counties — Butler, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Montgomery, Pickaway, Summit and Wood — that remain at level 3, are mandated to wear masks when in public.
Trumbull County, which was previously a level 3 county, was downgraded to level 2 on Thursday.
For more information, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Those with questions may contact the Highland County Health Department by calling 937-393-1941, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by messaging the Highland County Health Department Facebook page.
The Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline can be reached at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.