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Valley case numbers sit near state bottom

While nearly one in four counties in Ohio exceed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold for high incidents of COVID-19, the Mahoning Valley’s counties are among the lowest in the state.

Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday 21 of the state’s 88 counties exceed the threshold, which is at least 100 new reported cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks.

“This number is important because it means that cases are rising steadily in the county,” he said. “Having high case numbers increases the chances of the virus spreading throughout the community if steps aren’t taken to slow the spread.”

That’s not the case, however, in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

Each are at Level 1 (yellow), the lowest level on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. It’s the third straight week at Level 1 for Mahoning and Trumbull. Columbiana has bounced between Level 1 and Level 2 (orange) since the system was created July 2 and was at Level 2 last week.

The system is made up of seven indicators with zero to one putting a county at Level 1, two to three at Level 2, four to five at Level 3 (red) and six to seven at Level 4 (purple). No county has reached Level 4 since the system started.

Until Sept. 3, Mahoning was at Level 2 every week since the start of the system. Trumbull was at Level 3 for the first two weeks, then dropped to Level 2 for five straight weeks before going to Level 3 on Aug. 21, back to Level 2 the following week and now at Level 1 for three straight weeks.

Columbiana has the most COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the Valley between Sept. 2 and Tuesday, but it’s 32.39 — well below the 100-case CDC threshold.

Mahoning has 31.05 cases per 100,000 residents while Trumbull has 27.78 cases per 100,000.

All three counties met the same indicator on the advisory system this week: cases in noncongregate settings being more than 50 percent at least once in the last three weeks. Noncongregate means in the general population, not in a closed location such as a nursing home or assisted-living facility.

Mahoning and Trumbull exceeded 50 percent during each of the last three weeks while Columbiana had it just this past week.

About 70 percent of the state’s population is in Level 2 counties, DeWine said. But the state had the lowest number of counties — five — at Level 3 since the program began July 2.

The system was important during its second and third weeks when those in Level 3 counties were required to wear face masks, starting July 8. But after DeWine imposed a statewide face-mask mandate, with some exceptions, effective July 23, it primarily serves as a guide for counties that are hot spots for COVID-19.

YOUNGSTOWN SCHOOLS CEO

During his Thursday news conference, DeWine spoke to Justin Jennings, CEO of the Youngstown school district.

The district is using remote learning and Jennings talked about how the district has offered WiFi hotspots to each student to get them connected to the internet and has provided internet connections, through Spectrum, for the households of students who don’t have them.

Also, Jennings said the district — through a partnership with Quickmed Urgent Care Clinic — will offer medical services starting in late October or early November to students and the entire community. Quickmed accepts most forms of insurance, but no one will be denied service.

The district will open the first clinics at East and Chaney high schools. The clinics will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays by appointment. The services offered will be annual wellness visits, vaccinations, state-mandated vision and hearing screenings, diagnostic testing for illnesses including the flu, COVID-19 and strep throat as well as referrals to specialty physicians and other services.

The state has started releasing virus data for school districts. Two students in Columbiana Exempted Village School District tested positive. No other students or staff members have been reported positive in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

The first round of schools data covered reports from around the state from Sept. 7-13. Some school districts may have chosen to include cumulative cases from before that date.

Only cases among students or staff that engaged in on-site instruction, activities or support services are included. Students or staff that were completely remote are not included.

HALLOWEEN

DeWine said the state will have guidance today on Halloween — though he said trick-or-treat hours are determined locally and that won’t change because of the pandemic.

He said he was concerned about social distancing at haunted houses and hayrides.

“Face coverings must be worn, social distancing should be practiced, large groups should be avoided and stay at home if you are sick,” DeWine said.

The number of reported COVID-19 deaths in the state Thursday showed a decline from the two previous days.

Thursday, 25 deaths were reported. There were 49 reported Wednesday and 87 Tuesday. The average for the past 21 days was 24 COVID-19 deaths reported per day.

That doesn’t mean all of the deaths occurred in the past few days. Oftentimes reported deaths and cases lag behind actual ones by several weeks.

Among the newly reported deaths Thursday was one in Trumbull County.

Ohio reported 141,585 total COVID-19 cases Thursday, an increase of 1,067 from a day earlier. Of the total cases, 119,690 are presumed recovered with 4,580 fatalities, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Mahoning County reported 2,968 total cases Thursday, which was a decline of three from Wednesday. This usually happens when cases are attributed to residents of one county and it’s later discovered they actually live in another. Of Mahoning’s total cases, 2,582 are presumed recovered with 279 fatalities.

Trumbull County listed 1,837 total COVID-19 cases Thursday with 1,623 presumed recovered and 131 deaths.

Columbiana County had 1,912 total cases Thursday with 1,756 presumed recovered and 79 deaths.

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