Warren County officials are challenging state data indicating Mason and Lebanon are among areas in Ohio with “worrisome” COVID-19 trends.
“In reality, cases have gone down since May 20 (in Mason),” Warren County Commissioner Dave Young said during the county commission’s regular meeting Tuesday. “That’s not the message that got out in the past week.”
Last Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine said 45036 and 45040, the zip codes of Lebanon and Mason, respectively, were the locations of increased cases in Warren County.
The governor also identified zip codes in Montgomery, Greene and Clark where he said state data showed the biggest increases in cases.
In Montgomery County, the top zip codes are 45424, 45417 and 45426; in Greene County the top zip codes are 45324 and 45385; in Clark County the top zip codes are 45505, 45506 and 45503.
The criticism was the latest episode of the commissioners and other county leaders attacking state orders limiting business, schools, businesses, including the Kings Island amusement park, and the new Warren County Sports Park at Union Village.
Young, who has also appeared on local radio criticizing the state, and Commissioner Tom Grossmann, who wrote a letter urging an easing of state orders, turned on Tuesday for affirmation to Duane Stansbury, health commissioner in Warren County.
On June 12, Stansbury’s office urged residents to take precautions in response to “a rapid increase in community spread.” On Tuesday, he said, “We saw an increase, we’ll call it a small increase.”
Still Stansbury supported the two commissioners’ interpretation of local data.
No county deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 since May 24. Heading into Tuesday’s update, 594 cases and 62 hospitalizations were reported by the Ohio Department of Health.
Young said state data showed no such increase when taken into account is the fact Mason-Deerfield are the county’s most populated area.
“I can’t answer why he chose to narrow it down,” Stansbury said.
Young responded, “There are people within certain zip codes. They are very concerned.”
Stansbury agreed with Grossmann that education and procedures had kept county case levels down for at-risk populations, such as nursing-home residents and amusement parks tend to cater to younger, lower-risk people.
Stansbury and Grossmann also concurred on the problems created by prolonged restrictions on businesses and the economy.
“We want people to stay safe,” Grossmann said. “We also need to have people back to work, we need them to go back to school.”
The Ohio Department of Health reviews COVID-19 trends to determine if there are any regions or counties that are showing consecutive days of growth in metrics such as COVID cases, emergency room visits with COVID concerns and hospitalizations, DeWine’s office said in response.
In Warren County, the change was from 5.5 cases a day in May to 8.5 cases a day during the first two weeks of June, mainly related to a large number of cases (reported in mid-May) at one Lebanon nursing home.
“The cases have been declining this week but we will continue to monitor,” Dan Tierney, press secretary for DeWine, said in response Tuesday.
In addition, Tierney said the data related to the the Warren County increase did not include nursing home outbreaks in May.
The outbreak in question in Warren County was identified by local public health in early June. The funeral associated with the outbreak occurred at the “very end of May,” Tierney added Wednesday.
“As for the Mason zip code, the map we showed was of cumulative cases so far. The 45040 zip code has about 25% of Warren County’s overall cases, so that’s why it popped to #2 on the county map,” Tierney added.
Young described the difference as a “total disconnect” between the state and local communities.
Commissioner Shannon Jones thanked Stansbury for his assistance.
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