In addition, eight other Northeast Ohio counties are currently at a ‘medium’ risk, meaning masks could be a good option for high-risk individuals.
CLEVELAND — COVID-19 cases in Ohio have been climbing for weeks, and now, we’re starting to see the effects of that increase on the community at-large.
According to the CDC’s guidelines, Ashtabula and Lorain counties now have “high” community levels of COVID, the first time in months any part of the state has seen those risk assessments. This means health experts are advising all residents in those counties to wear face masks while in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.
Following a surge in cases last winter caused by the highly contagious omicron variant, the CDC updated its guidelines to better account for coronavirus hospitalizations after originally using case numbers as the overriding factor. While new infections per capita still play a role, new hospital admissions now help determine if doctors recommend face coverings or not, especially in counties where infections are under 200 per 100,000 residents in the past week.
When it comes to Ashtabula and Lorain counties, however, both regions have reported more than 200 new COVID-19 cases per capita over the last seven days, meaning the threshold of new hospitalizations per capita is now 10 instead of the usual 20. The CDC reports Lorain County has had 229.16 new infections and 10.4 new hospital admissions per 100,000 citizens in the last week, while Ashtabula is dealing with a whopping 332.16 new cases per capita and 10.7 new infections.
There is another indicator that could put counties with such levels of spread in the “high” zone, and that’s if at least 10% of all hospital beds are occupied by COVID patients over an average of seven days. Thankfully, Ashtabula and Lorain’s percentages sit at just 2.9% and 2.7%, respectively, but those figures could rise if community spread continues at its current pace.
The Ohio Department of Health says that of the state’s more than 72,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations since the start of 2021, more than 93% have involved people who were not fully vaccinated against the virus. The CDC reports 64.2% of Lorain County’s total population has been fully vaccinated, compared to just 53.3% in Ashtabula County.
In “high” counties, those who are immunocompromised or who have close contact with such individuals are also advised to avoid high-risk areas or gatherings, if possible. In addition, eight other Northeast Ohio counties have risen to “medium” risk for COVID-19, meaning masks could be the best option for high-risk individuals:
It should be noted that these guidelines from the CDC are merely recommendations and not necessarily required by law, although private businesses in Ohio are still free to implement their own policies. Despite issuing a statewide indoor mask mandate from August of 2020 to June of 2021, Gov. Mike DeWine has indicated he won’t take similar measures this time around, partly due to a controversial new law that now largely limits his ability to implement health orders.
In new numbers released Thursday, Ohio reported more than 19,000 new coronavirus cases in the past week, compared to just over 3,000 seven weeks prior. Active hospitalizations have also been creeping up, but still sit at just 640, or less than 3% of all available beds. Nearly all of the state’s cases are now caused by the omicron BA.2 or BA.2.12.1 variants.