DeWine shows concern as virus cases increase again
Despite expressing concern Monday about a recent significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the state, Gov. Mike DeWine isn’t calling for immediate changes to policies to slow the pandemic.
He said he was going to lift restrictions on outdoor visits to nursing homes if safety standards are met, beginning July 20. That prohibition was put in place in March.
About 70 percent of the 2,818 COVID-19 deaths in the state are at long-term care facilities, according to Ohio Department of Health statistics.
“My job as governor is to protect all Ohioans,” DeWine said. “Part of that job means putting measures in place to keep people safe from COVID. It also means protecting those things that add value to life. Balance has been and remains the operative word in our efforts.”
DeWine said he expects to have an updated plan Thursday for dealing with social distancing and possibly for gatherings of more than 10 people. He said potential changes could be done county by county rather than the entire state.
Also Monday, DeWine extended an urgent health advisory — Ohioans Protecting Ohioans — until the end of the week. The less restrictive advisory was put in place May 19 and was to expire today. That advisory replaced a Stay Safe Ohio order issued May 1 and replaced a stay-at-home order — with several exemptions — issued March 22.
But DeWine also talked about being troubled by increases in COVID-19 cases in the past week-plus.
“You may be wondering if the increased cases are simply because Ohio has worked so hard to ramp up testing,” he said. “Certainly some is due to that, but not entirely. You have to look at positivity. If the spread of this virus remained at a low level, more testing should show a lower positivity. There simply wouldn’t be as many cases to pick up with testing. Instead, the creeping up of our positivity rate even as we are doing more testing means that we are likely picking up signs of broader community spread.”
DeWine pointed to an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations last week for the first time in more than two months.
“COVID-specific hospital utilization is approaching levels not seen since the earlier peak of the pandemic in late April,” he said.
DeWine lately has had news conferences on the virus on Tuesdays and Thursdays so when his office said he’d have one Monday, there was a significant increase in interest. The state’s coronavirus website crashed during much of DeWine’s Monday news conference.
He said he changed the date because he and his wife, Fran, will be participating in a virtual roundtable discussion on foster care today with first lady Melania Trump and members of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Monday was the 12th straight day with reported COVID-19 cases higher than the state daily average for the previous 21 days. There were 737 newly reported cases Monday, stopping a four-day streak of the state having more than 800 newly reported cases.
Last week, 4,391 total reported cases were reported — the highest for any week during the pandemic.
When asked about the increases here and in other states, particularly Texas, DeWine said, “It frightens me” and “that’s why we’re working so hard to talk about wearing masks and keeping distances.”
But the state doesn’t mandate people wear masks and DeWine gave no indication Monday that he plans to change that policy.
Statewide, cases were at 51,046 Monday, up 737 from Sunday. It’s more than the daily average for the past 21 days. With the increase in the past week, the daily average for the past 21 days jumped from 455 on June 22 to 581 Monday.
Mahoning County reported 1,736 cases Monday, up 16 from Sunday.
Trumbull County posted 824 cases Monday, up five from Sunday.
Columbiana County had 1,217 cases Monday, up 20 from Sunday. It increased by 97 cases Sunday from Saturday. Of its total cases, 783 are inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, according to its county health district. Of the county’s 1,217 cases, only 336 are non-prison or non-nursing home, the health district said.
While cases and hospitalizations are high, the COVID-19 fatality rate in Ohio continues to drop.
There were 11 reported deaths Monday, including one in Trumbull County. That’s less than the daily average of 20 fatalities during the previous 21 days.
Overall, the Valley showed 348 COVID-19 fatalities as of Friday: 228 in Mahoning, 61 in Trumbull and 59 in Columbiana counties.