DeWine pledges $30M for local health departments; announces 2 data dashboards

Restaurant, gym shutdown can be avoided, governor says

As the state once again broke its record for new COVID-19 cases reported in a day, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Thursday the state will provide $30 million in aid to help local health departments and roll out two new health data dashboards.

The Ohio Department of Health reported more than 7,100 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, smashing the previous record of 6,508 set earlier this week. Tuesday was the first time the state recorded more than 6,000 daily cases. Montgomery County surpassed 15,000 total cases.

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This comes the day after DeWine announced enhanced rules around face masks and event venues and threatened to close restaurants, bars and gyms during a statewide televised address. DeWine clarified during a press conference Thursday that another business shutdown is not guaranteed and repeated his plea for Ohioans to wear masks and avoid social gatherings.

“We have it within our power to avoid these bad consequences, either a shutdown or this virus running wild through the state of Ohio,” he said. “We can control it by what each one of us does.”

DeWine said Thursday, some COVID-19 spread is happening in bars and restaurants. That’s contrary to the message from the governor’s press conference on Monday, during which Dr. Andy Thomas of Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University said, “the spread is not happening in bars and restaurants because the vast majority of bars and restaurants are taking this seriously” and taking precautions.

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DeWine and public health officials have repeatedly said in recent weeks a large part of the spread is happening in social gatherings among friends and family. While the state order limiting social gatherings to 10 people remains in effect, DeWine said he does not “intend to send agents" to private homes to enforce the order.

The state legislature is allotting $30 million in aid for local health departments as federal CARES Act dollars are running out. Each of the state’s 113 health departments will each receive $200,000 to use at their discretion. The remaining funds will be used to hire contact tracers at the state level who will be available to assist hard-hit counties.

On top of the already public county data, the state is introducing an online dashboard that breaks down confirmed and probable COVID-19 case data by ZIP code. To protect individuals' confidentiality, case counts will not be provided for ZIP codes with fewer than five cases or less than 100 total residents.

A second state dashboard at flu.ohio.gov examines flu trends across the state, including hospitalizations. The data will be broken down by region, county, date, sex, age, race and ethnicity. Confirmed cases will be compared to the previous five years of flu seasons. DeWine reminded Ohioans it’s more important than ever to get a flu vaccine to reduce strain on the health care system.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Public Health Advisory System in its 20th week of existence has become filled with red counties. Including almost the entire Miami Valley region as Miami County moved into that level on Thursday. In Ohio, 68 of 88 counties are at level 3. Only one yellow, or level 1, county remains left in Ohio: Noble County. Franklin and Tuscarawas counties both are on the level 4 watch list.