Montgomery County back to ’red’ coronavirus advisory

Members of Montgomery County Public Health and the Ohio National Guard helped with pop-up testing earlier in August at Kettering Fields, 444 North Bend Blvd. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Members of Montgomery County Public Health and the Ohio National Guard helped with pop-up testing earlier in August at Kettering Fields, 444 North Bend Blvd. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

University of Dayton cases cited as significant contributing factor

Montgomery County is once again on a higher level of alert for coronavirus spread, with new cases per capita rising after several previous weeks of decline.

There were 538 cases reported over the past 14 days in Montgomery County, according to the latest weekly update from the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, which advises the public on the level of coronavirus spread in a community.

Among Montgomery County’s cases is the rapidly growing count of positive cases associated with University of Dayton. On Wednesday, the university had 89 newly reported confirmed cases, as part of 240 active cases and 262 cases detected cumulatively since June 23. On Tuesday, the university started a new surveillance testing program aimed at curbing spread and isolating the infectious.

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Montgomery County for one week was at a lower level of alert, but is back up this week to a “level three” or “red” alert, indicating very high exposure and spread.

“Reducing the spread of COVID-19 will not be a short-term process,” said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County. “We will need to maintain our commitment to practicing measures that will help reduce the spread, including isolating yourself if you have COVID, wearing a mask in public, keeping a physical distance from others, avoiding gatherings of people and washing your hands frequently.”

When asked if UD cases were a significant contributing factor, Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County, said they are a contributing factor but not the sole factor.

A spokeswoman for UD said Thursday afternoon that they continue to evaluate the situation on campus and assess their testing data.

Montgomery County just re-crossed the CDC threshold for having a high incidence of coronavirus cases of more than 100 cases per 100,000 population, with a 2 week rate of 101.2 per 100,000.

The county is back to level three alert because it meets the following four of the seven indicators Ohio uses to monitor the level of coronavirus spread:

• Greater than 50 cases/per 100,000 population for the two most recent weeks;

• Sustained increase in new cases, with the county growing from an average of 39.6 to 45.4 cases per day;

• Proportion of cases in non-congregate settings (such as nursing homes) above 50%;

• And an increase in outpatient visits for COVID19-like illness, which went from 50.1 to 60.2 cases per day.

Free pop-up coronavirus testing is available in Dayton this Saturday. Community Health Centers of Greater Dayton will hold the drive up and walk up testing event 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, at its Charles Drew Health Center, 1323 W. Third St. and no doctor’s note is needed.

For the hospital coordinating region including Montgomery County, about 76% regional ICU beds were occupied as of Aug. 25 with 8% occupied by COVID-19 patients.

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Sarah Hackenbract, CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, said they had a slight increase this week but are back to normal levels of COVID-19 positive hospitalizations. The number of patients in the ICU and ventilators did increase slightly but she said is still at a very manageable level of need for care.

Part of what the numbers reflect is that in the region there are many outbreaks connected to nursing homes or other senior living communities.

“As those facilities have found themselves in a difficult situation with COVID-19 and their staffing impacted, then sometimes we see their patients that need to be transferred into our hospitals, because those facilities don’t have the staff to care for them,” Hackenbract said.

More than 1,200 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Ohio Thursday, bringing the total to 118,828, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Gov. Mike DeWine said statewide, the a slight increase in new cases that was not a surprise as students return to school and college campuses.

Ohio is overall down to six counties at the level three alert. This is the lowest number of counties — and smallest number of Ohioans — living in level three alert counties since starting the alert system, DeWine said, with the rest of Ohioans living in counties with lower alert levels.

“We will be keeping a very close eye on all of our counties as college and university students return to class and as students go back to school,” DeWine said.

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As the number of COVID-19 cases on the University of Dayton campus grew to 155 on Tuesday, officials announced measures aimed at increasing testing and disciplining students who violate the college’s coronavirus safety protocol.

The institution’s COVID-19 surveillance testing program, which calls for testing up to 1,000 students per week, is designed to identify individuals who may be carrying the virus, yet show no symptoms. The testing program is also aimed at assessing the spread of the virus within the campus community. It includes testing targeted at potential hot spots as well as random testing, the university said, noting that students will be notified directly if they are selected for testing.

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