Not all coronavirus trends are negative for Ohio, new data show

As the state passes 5,000 deaths due to COVID-19 on the heels of a record new coronavirus cases reported Friday, not all virus trends are negative.

The Dayton Daily News has been tracking the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID “current trends” data for months to see statewide changes in the coronavirus outbreak. All current trends data is based on the date a COVID test result, or hospitalization, or death is reported to ODH.

Number of cases: Ohio’s number of new cases reported per day has gone up in back-to-back weeks, from 929 per day Sept. 21-27, to 1157 the following week, and an all-time high of 1406 per day Oct. 5-11, according to ODH data. Obviously, that’s not good.

One thing to keep in mind is that the number of new cases is a product of two things — how many tests are administered, and what percentage of those tests are coming back positive. Ohio’s testing continues to expand — there were 257,149 tests from Oct. 3-9, compared with 173,363 tests from Sept. 3-9 — and that accounts for some of the higher numbers. But that’s not the only factor.

Positivity rate: Four weeks ago, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive statewide hit a low point, with Ohio’s seven-day moving average dipping to 2.7% for a few days. Since then, it has ticked back up to 2.9%, 3.2% and 3.7% the past three weeks.

In the 25 reporting days from Sept. 11 to Oct. 5, there was only one day where the positivity rate hit 4.0%. In the past five days of reporting, the rate has hit 4.0% three times. That’s still lower than it was for all of June, July and August, but the trend is headed in the wrong direction.

Deaths: Here’s the good news, on a comparative basis. Last week, only 74 COVID-19 deaths were reported to ODH statewide. That’s the lowest number of deaths reported in any week since March.

Keep in mind, this is ODH’s current trends data, which is based on the day the information is reported to ODH, often on a slight lag, not necessarily the day the death actually happens.

Daily deaths data can sometimes be skewed by reporting anomalies, such as lower reporting on weekends, or single-day spikes such as the 88 deaths reported Oct. 2 or the 87 deaths reported Sept. 15.

But Ohio’s 21-day average of deaths reported per day currently sits at 18, a little lower than it was for most of the past three months, even with the Oct. 2 spike included.

Hospitalizations: New reported hospitalizations dropped noticeably from mid-August (95 per day) into mid-September, then plateaued for a few weeks (around 65 per day), according to ODH data.

Unfortunately, they have increased noticeably the past two weeks, to 79 per day, then to 90 per day last week. Those urging caution about the virus point out that if positive tests rise, then hospitalizations rise, an increase in deaths may follow.

National comparison: According to the Worldometers COVID-19 tracking website, Ohio ranks 13th among the 50 states in both COVID cases and deaths. Since Ohio ranks seventh in population, that’s actually somewhat of a good thing.

Looking at the statistics on a per capita basis, to compare states on more equal footing, Ohio ranks 25th of 50 in COVID deaths per capita, and 39th in cases per capita. Part of the reason Ohio ranks lower in cases per capita is because the state ranks 32nd in testing per capita, according to Worldometers.

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