Many rural counties in Ohio are showing signs of increase rates of coronavirus occurrence, while some urban centers are seeing improvement.
In the Miami Valley, rural Preble County rose Thursday to a “level three” alert, warning of significant coronavirus spread. The county is home to an active nursing home outbreak as well as community spread. Montgomery County, on the other hand, is for the first time down to a “level two” alert, with both demand for newly detected cases and hospitalizations showing signs of slowing down.
The new data was released Thursday as part of a weekly update by the state. The counties each receive an advisory on a scale of 1-4 based on seven indicators of how prolific coronavirus is in a community. The full data for each county can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov .
Gov. Mike DeWine attributed the improvements in more urban counties to longer adoption of masking in public.
“What has happened is we’ve seen the urban areas with a bigger percentage people wearing mask for a longer period of time and we’re seeing those numbers go down. Unfortunately we’re seeing those numbers go up in our rural areas,” DeWine said during his afternoon press conference.
After the data was released, Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County spokesman Dan Suffoletto said they are pleased after so many months to begin to see a downward trend but also wanted to caution that this is just a snapshot of a short period of time.
“We would need to see this type of decrease over a sustained period of time before we can draw any larger conclusions,” said spokesman Dan Suffoletto, adding that it is important people continue to take precautions like masks and keeping distance.
There were 475 new cases over the last two weeks. On the July 30 update, there were 784 new cases detected in Montgomery County over the past two weeks.
Sarah Hackenbract, CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, said hospitals in the region are overall seeing levels of COVID-19 patients treated in the ICU or on ventilators back to the lower levels of June before the July increase. As of Aug. 18, preliminary data had 5.4% of ICU beds occupied with COVID-19 patients and overall about 85% of ICU beds occupied in the region.
Emergency department visits for COVID-19 diagnosed cases or COVID- like illness also have been trending down in Montgomery County, with a seven-day average of 8 visits as of Aug. 18 compared to an average of a little below 16 visits as of the July 30 update.
“We do need to continue to drive these numbers down. We don’t want to see an overall increase ... ultimately that could lead to where it would be harder for our hospitals to manage,” Hackenbract said.
In Preble County, there’s an outbreak at Greenbriar Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Eaton, with a preliminary count of 37 cases between residents and staff.
Preble County Public Health announced Aug. 8 that the department was investigating the outbreak and the residents were tested as the result of two employees testing positive, with plans for further investigation and testing.
A message was left with Greenbriar seeking more information. The nursing home is listed in June by the state as having passed its inspection for coronvirus infection control measures.
As of Wednesday, Ohio Department of Health reported 19 residents with coronavirus cases and 18 staff members. This data is preliminary and there are sometimes delays between when new cases occur and when they are recorded by the state.
The county of 40,882 residents had 71 newly detected cases over the last two weeks, which places it for the week as the fourth highest Ohio county based on the rate of detected cases per population.
Darke County had the second highest rate of detected cases, with 119 new cases detected in the last two weeks, though new cases have been trending down.
There is also a nursing home outbreak in Darke County, at Rest Haven, where there are 49 current resident cases and five staff cases recorded by the state as of Thursday.
Most of the recent cases in the county, however, have been detected out in the community. According to the preliminary state data, all of the Darke County coronavirus cases detected in the past week and 80% detected Aug. 7-13 were non-congregate cases, meaning they were detected spreading outside of a congregated setting like a nursing home.
“Early on, long-term care made our numbers and probably two to three weeks ago community spreads started to take over our total numbers,” said Darke County Health Commissioner Terrence Holman.
Holman said there’s still a lot to be studied about the coronavirus, but he expects its going to be endemic. He said it is important people take precautions like mask wearing, social distancing and sanitation to lower spread.
“There’s no way we’re going to eradicate it. It’s going to be around and we just need to control the spread,” Holman said.
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