CDC puts Montgomery County at high COVID level, recommends masks

Case rate is 8.5 times higher than this point last year.

Montgomery County has joined Greene County at the “high” level of the CDC’s COVID-19 framework, a point where the CDC recommends masking indoors in public settings, regardless of vaccination status.

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County said local COVID cases and hospitalizations have been rising for weeks. The county’s two-week incident rate (498.4 per 100,000) is well below January’s pandemic peak, but it is 8.5 times higher than this time last year.

“The new strain of COVID appears to be much more contagious than others and is spreading more quickly,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager with Public Health.

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals are at risk for getting COVID-19, but vaccinations continue to reduce the risk of more serious illness from the virus, according to health officials. More than 1,000 Ohioans were COVID-positive in hospitals Friday. Roughly one of every three Ohioans over 5 is unvaccinated, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

“As we move through the various phases of this pandemic, it is important for us to make adjustments to the precautions that we take,” said Jennifer Wentzel, Montgomery County Health Commissioner.

At the high level of COVID-19 transmission, the CDC recommends:

• Wearing a mask indoors in public regardless of vaccination status;

• Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines;

• Getting tested if you have symptoms.

Greene County rose to the CDC’s “high” level on Tuesday. Laurie Fox, public information officer with Greene County Public Health, said her agency continues to see a steady flow in those seeking vaccinations and booster shots, as the 6-month-old to 5-year-old age group starts the process.

“The uptake is not at a high rate, but we have been vaccinating more each week,” Fox said about the youngest age group.

Many people also are struggling with mask fatigue, as well as pandemic fatigue in general, and Greene County is no different, Fox said. She said the continued monitoring of data and CDC’s Community Levels are important tools in keeping up COVID awareness.

“We’ve continued to experience weekly increases in our cases across the county. People have been traveling, attending various events and gatherings,” Fox said. “With relaxing precautions, our normal activities can increase the risk of exposure to the virus. The current variants are highly transmissible.”

Increased COVID spread has had some noticeable affects lately. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base recently stiffened its protocols at a higher “health protection condition.” And the city of Dayton closed the Dabney Pool through Monday at the Northwest Recreation Center following “possible exposure of staff to COVID-19.”

People who are immunocompromised or otherwise at high risk for severe illness are encouraged to talk to their health care providers about any additional precautions.

“The best recommendation right now is for people all to use all of the mitigation measures they can,” Suffoletto said.

No single strategy is going to work 100% of the time, but Suffoletto said combining the different measures can help reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

“The more of those things you do consistently, the better off you’ll be in the long run,” Suffoletto said.

Vaccination and masks

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County is offering a vaccination clinic for ages 5 and up from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at Bethesda Temple, 3701 Salem Ave. Additional clinics are planned July 27 at Bethesda Temple and July 28 at the main library downtown. Appointments are recommended, and people can register at www.phdmc.org.

Dayton Children’s offers vaccinations by appointment for children 6 months and older. Visit childrensdayton.org for more information.

Greene County Public Health holds vaccination clinics on Fridays from 8:30-10 a.m. and 2-3:30 p.m. at its 360 Wilson Drive office in Xenia.

Face masks remain important tools in decreasing the risk of exposure to COVID in public spaces, as well as remembering hand washing, general etiquette when sneezing or coughing, staying up to date on vaccines, and social distancing.

“Masking is a recommendation when case rates are high and the potential to be exposed is higher, however it is not a mandate,” Fox said. “It’s a personal choice. People will have to consider that information when making their decision to wear a mask or not, for their own protection and for their loved ones.”

As of Friday, there are nine counties in Ohio with a high COVID community level. Locally, Butler, Miami and Warren counties have a low community level, while Champaign, Clark, Darke and Preble counties have a medium community level, according to the CDC.

For more information on COVID, visit covid.cdc.gov.

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