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Fewer than half of Ohio’s counties now on red alert for coronavirus; two-week rate drops to 140.2 per 100,000 – cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ohio’s two-week coronavirus case rate has dipped to its lowest level since October, and fewer than half of Ohio’s counties remain on red alert for concern over spread of the virus.

The weekly update Thursday from Ohio Department of Health showed a drop in the case rate for the third consecutive week, to 140.2 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks. This is down from 155.6 and 185.8 the last two weeks, and a recent high of 200 per 100,000 reported three weeks ago.

Though just 38 of Ohio’s 88 counties remain on Level 3 red alert, those counties include 10 of the 11 counties in the Northeast corner of the state – Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit and Trumbull.

Only Geauga County in this region is a step lower for concern, at Level 2 orange.

Yet statewide, the total of 38 marks the lowest number in months. There were 45 counties on red alert last week. Two weeks ago, there were 52 red-alert counties, plus Franklin a step higher for concern at Level 4 purple. For several weeks in January and February, 84 of Ohio’s 88 counties were on red alert.

This week, 45 counties are on orange alert and seven listed at the lowest level of concern of yellow. They are Carroll, Coshocton, Morgan, Noble, Tuscarawas, Vinton and Washington – all smaller counties in the eastern half of the state.

Red alert, according to the health department, means there remains a public emergency for increased exposure and spread, and that people should “exercise a high degree of caution.” The alert system takes into account several factors, including case rates, hospitalizations and trips to doctors’ offices.

However, in recent weeks, Gov. Mike DeWine has placed an emphasis on the case rate metric. He has said he will lift all his health orders if it drops to 50, a level not seen since June. This rate is based on when people became sick, not when their cases were reported. And it excludes cases involving incarcerated individuals.

The rate of 140.2 reported Thursday was the lowest since mid-October, according to historical records from the health department. The rate was as high as 845.5 in mid-December.

Despite continued improvement, Cuyahoga County has the second-highest rate in the state (216.1 cases per 100,000), behind only Lucas (249.1) along the Michigan border and including Toledo.

Ohio coronavirus case rate, through May 5

Historical two-week coronavirus case rates, according to the Ohio Department of Health. They are reported each Thursday, based on data available through Wednesday.Rich Exner, cleveland.com

In Greater Cleveland, all but Geauga and Portage counties showed improvements this week:

* Cuyahoga – 216.1 versus 231.5, 266.6 and 280.9 the previous three weeks.

* Geauga – 100.4 versus 75.8, 124.9 and 154.8.

* Lake – 138.2 versus 158.2, 207.3 and 235.9.

* Lorain – 155.2 versus 164.6, 213.3 and 232.1.

* Medina – 104.6 versus 121.8, 158.6 and 178.6.

* Portage – 160.6 versus 156.3, 209.9 and 213.6.

* Summit – 189.5 versus, 216.8, 258 and 300.9.

Statewide, seven counties are below the threshold of 50: Washington (46.7), Vinton (45.9), Tuscarawas (42.4), Cohocton (35.5), Carroll (26), Noble (20.8) and Morgan (20.7).

Cuyahoga County COVID-19 report card, Map 6

Cuyahoga County’s COVID-19 report card from the Ohio Department of the Health.Ohio Department of Health

The advisory system

Here’s a closer look at the advisory system introduced in early July. Alert levels are determined by the number of warning benchmarks met. But once a county reaches red alert, it does not drop unless its rate of new cases also drops below 100 per 100,000 over two weeks.

* 1. New cases – Alert triggered when there are 50 new cases per cases 100,000 residents over the last two weeks.

* 2. Increase in new cases – Alert triggered by an increase in cases for five straight days at any point over the last three weeks. This is based on the date of onset of symptoms, not when the cases are reported.

* 3. Non-congregate living cases – Alert triggered when at least 50% of the new cases in one of the last three weeks have occurred in outside congregate living spaces such as nursing homes and prisons.

* 4. Emergency rooms – Alert triggered when there is an increase in visits for COVID-like symptoms or a diagnosis for five straight days at any point in the last three weeks.

* 5. Doctor visits – Alert triggered when there is an increase in out-patient visits resulting in confirmed cases or suspected diagnosis for COVID-19 for five straight days at any point in the last three weeks.

* 6. Hospitalizations – Alert triggered when there is an increase in new COVID-19 patients for five straight days at any point over the last three weeks. This is based on the county or residence, not the location of the hospital.

* 7. Intensive Care Unit occupancy – Alert triggered when ICU occupancy in a region exceeds 80% of total ICU beds and at least 20% of the beds are being used for coronavirus patients for at least three days in the last week.

Rich Exner, data analysis editor for cleveland.com, writes about numbers on a variety of topics. Follow on Twitter @RichExner. See other data-related stories at cleveland.com/datacentral.

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