DeWine: ‘Virus raging through Ohio’

Ohio posts its highest single-day COVID case total, third-highest hospitalization total, and highest test positivity rate since July.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday asked each county to develop a “COVID defense team” as the state shattered its record for new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day, by the widest margin ever.

The increase has been stark — from a dip below 1,000 new cases per day in September, to a sudden run of over 2,000 per day this month, then a major spike Thursday to 3,590 new cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

“This is by far the highest number of cases we’ve ever seen during the entire pandemic,” DeWine said, pointing to the previous high of 2,858. “The virus is raging throughout the state of Ohio.”

The issue is not just cases, which might be explained away by an increase in testing. The percentage of all tests coming back positive has more than doubled from 2.7% in late September (per seven-day average), to 6% on Thursday, the first time it hit that level since July.

Hospitalizations have also risen significantly. At Ohio’s worst this summer, the state was averaging about 100 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day. That number dipped into the 60s per day in September, but has shot back up. Nine of the past 10 days have had at least 135 new hospitalizations, and all five of the highest daily totals of the year (including Thursday’s 194) have come in the past 10 days.

The governor was asked whether his mask order is working and whether the state should take more extreme steps. He said despite “grim data,” he’s optimistic that people will rally.

“So much of this comes down to what people do in their own lives, where government cannot really interfere unless you’re in totalitarian state. And I don’t think we want to be in a totalitarian state,” DeWine said. “So it is people of good will coming together, understanding the facts and taking action to save their own lives and the lives of family members and their community.”

DeWine did offer some good news Thursday, saying hospitals are yet not approaching capacity, and adding that no Ohio counties moved to the most serious “purple level” in the state alert system.

But he continued his recent pleas to the public that taking simple steps — getting back to fundamentals, he said — was the way to control the virus.

“We have tools to beat this virus back, and we have learned a lot,” DeWine said. “The tools are very simple — more people wearing masks, more people keeping distance, washing our hands, and good ventilation when we’re inside.”

He also called on people to change their holiday season plans.

“Halloween parties are fun but they make no sense this year. Let’s save it till next year,” DeWine said. “That’s not what anyone wants to hear, but look, Thanksgiving has to be different, Christmas has to be different. … Ohioans are resourceful. We’ll figure out how to do these things.”

DeWine said each county and community should create a COVID defense team, saying it should include county commissioners, mayors, local health officials and business and religious leaders. He called on those teams to inventory their local assets and communicate with residents about next steps to slow the virus.

DeWine said schools and businesses continue to do a good job of following health guidelines. He said the biggest factor in COVID-19 spread are more informal gatherings where people let their guard down around friends, despite not knowing who is infected and who’s not.

School COVID data

COVID-19 cases reported by Ohio’s K-12 schools increased again last week, according to Ohio Department of Health data, but the Dayton-area increase was lower than the statewide trend.

The ODH dashboard showed Ohio schools reported 1,281 new cases last week — 766 involving students and 515 involving school staff. That’s a 25% increase over the number of new cases the previous week.

Schools in the Dayton area reported 125 new COVID-19 cases last week (54 students and 71 staff). That’s another single-week record locally, but the increase over the previous week’s total was only 7%.

Local schools reporting the highest number of new cases the week of Oct. 19-25 included Northmont with 11 (3 students, 8 staff), Xenia with 10 (3 students, 7 staff) and Tipp City with 6 (3 students, 3 staff).

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