Ohio COVID-19 alert system unveiled, here’s how it works

Ohio COVID-19 alert system unveiled, here’s how it works
Ohio's new COVID-19 warning system shows three counties are at Level 3 Red status. (Source: Ohio Department of Health)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - Ohio has a new COVID-19 warning system that assesses how the virus is spreading in each of the state’s counties.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System in a Thursday press briefing.

Its purpose, the governor said, is to “make clear the dangers happening” in Ohio’s counties and “to provide local health departments and community leaders data and info to help combat flare-ups as they occur.”

The warning system evaluates counties on seven data indicators that, according to DeWine, identify the level of risk for each county. The counties are then assigned to one of four color-coded levels representing that risk level.

Ohio's new COVID-19 warning system shows three counties are at Level 3 Red status.
Ohio's new COVID-19 warning system shows three counties are at Level 3 Red status. (Source: Ohio Department of Health)

Hamilton County, for example, is at Level 3 Red, which indicates it has triggered four or five of the seven indicators and there is very high exposure and spread. Its risk, according to the Ohio Department of Health, is very high. Hamilton County residents should limit activities as much as possible and wear a mask when they are out.

DeWine added average daily new cases have quadrupled in Hamilton County from 30 in early June to 130 at present.

Currently six other Ohio counties are at Level 3 Red status: Butler, Montgomery, Franklin, Huron, Cuyahoga and Trumbull.

The seven indicators are as follows, together with the DOH explanation as presented by DeWine:

New cases per capita: “When the data show that a county has had an average of 50 cases per 100,000 people over a 2-week period, that triggers a flag for an increasing case rate. Using this data means we are taking into account population of a county when monitoring case increases.”

Sustained increase in new cases: “If the number of new cases in a county continually increases, that’s another indicator of virus spread. A county will be flagged for meeting this indicator if the data show at least a five-day period of sustained new case growth.

Proportion of cases not congregate cases: “Data showing more than 50% of new cases originating from non-congregate settings during at least one of the past three weeks will trigger a flag on this indicator.”

Sustained increase in ER visits: “ER data will show us the trend in the number of people who visit an emergency department with COVID-19 symptoms or a COVID diagnosis as a result of the visit. A county is flagged when there is an increase in such ER visits over a five-day period.”

Sustained increase in outpatient visits: “This data set looks at the number of people visiting outpatient settings, including tele-health appointments, with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 symptoms. A county is flagged when there is an increase over a five-day period.”

Sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions: “When the numbers show at least a five-day period of sustained growth in the number of county residents with COVID-19 who are admitted to a hospital, the county will be flagged for meeting this indicator.”

ICU bed occupancy: “This indicator looks at regional data for both COVID-19 and non-COVID use of ICU beds. A county is flagged for this indicator when the regional ICU occupancy goes above 80% for at least three of the last seven days.”

The alert system comes as Ohio enters a new phase in its battle with COVID-19, both in terms of the spread of the virus and how the state will deal with it moving forward.

The statewide restrictions that had characterized DeWine’s efforts through May will be replaced, he said, with targeted, county-specific actions to address localized spikes.

Hence the alert system.

“This next phase is not about hunkering down, but about learning to live with the virus and to keep our economy open and moving — all while taking active measures to slow the spread of this disease until we have a vaccine or other effective treatments,” DeWine said.

“Going forward, we will maintain vital, necessary baseline orders to control the spread of the virus, while implementing a new warning system to provide local health departments and community leaders data and info to help combat flare-ups as they occur in different parts of the state.”

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