CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday six new Ohio counties have been upgraded to Level 3 ‘red’ status in the state’s public advisory system, indicating a public health emergency with very high exposure to, and spread of, COVID-19.
Among those newly upgraded is Clermont County, where daily new cases doubled from four to nine June 16-July 2, according to DeWine.
Because the Department of Health’s mask mandate order applies categorically to all Level 3 counties, Clermont County is now included in the order. It will take effect at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 10, according to DeWine.
Clermont County Health Commissioner Julianne Nesbit says there are no particular hot spots in the county.
“Where more people live is where there are more cases,” Nesbit told FOX19 NOW. “But in general we are seeing cases throughout the entire county.”
Nesbit says enforcement of the order will be complaint-driven.
“We don’t want to fine people or penalize people,” she said. “We really just want to educate about the real importance of wearing a mask, and I know there are a lot of strong opinions out there, but we are really wearing a mask to protect others.”
One Ohio county previously at Level 3 status was downgraded to Level 2, bringing the state’s total number of Level 2 counties to 12.
Hamilton and Butler Counties were among the original group announced earlier this week. The mask mandate took effect in each county on Wednesday and will last until the counties are downgraded from Level 3 status.
That appears unlikely to happens soon,.
On Thursday DeWine affirmed the numbers in both counties are headed in the wrong direction, saying both are at risk of being upgraded to Level 4 ‘purple’ status, indicating severe exposure and spread.
DeWine reported from June 24-30, 1,124 cases were reported in Hamilton County, the largest number of reported cases since the start of the pandemic.
The average number of cases per day in Hamilton County went from 82 to 161 from June 16-30, DeWine said, and the number of emergency room visits went from 11 to 22 per day.
In Butler County, the number of daily cases doubled from 15 to 29 from June 16-July 3. Meanwhile, new emergency room admissions increased from two per day to seven.
Statewide, DeWine announced 1,150 new COVID-19 cases as well as rising hospitalizations. Deaths continue to fluctuate within a consistent range; 15 new deaths were reported Thursday.
DeWine also announced funding for schools as they face added costs reopening with pandemic-related safety precautions.
The governor and the Ohio General Assembly is requesting the state be able to use $300 million in flexible CARES Act money to that end, $200 million for higher education, $100 million for K-12 schools.
DeWine says the request comes in addition to $440 million in direct CARES Act funding the state’s K-12 schools are receiving. He adds Ohio’s colleges and universities also received more than $190 million of direct federal funding.
“We know that COVID-19 prevention efforts and safety precautions will cause costs at schools to be more expensive than in the years past,” Gov. DeWine said. “We want to help with these increasing costs.”