Southwest Ohio running out of time on COVID surge, governor says

Gov. DeWine addresses concerning COVID-19 numbers in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Time is running out for Greater Cincinnati to get the coronavirus under control.

That was Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s message Friday when he held an afternoon briefing at Lunken Airport to address the concerning spike of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Hamilton County.

The same could be said of Ohio generally, that its COVID-19 clock is ticking. On Friday the Department of Health reported more than 2,000 newly confirmed cases for the third consecutive day, a first since March. The positivity rate is nearing 5 percent. Hospitalizations are above 1,000 for the first time since the state’s midsummer spike.

The last metric is the decisive one in DeWine’s metaphor of a clock ticking down, where each tick represents one fewer hospital bed available statewide. If Ohio’s hospitals reach capacity, according to DeWine, the state could be in for a tragedy on the scale of what Northern Italy or New York City experienced.

“We’re not seeing our emergency rooms overcrowded or our ICU rooms overcrowded yet,” DeWine said, “but at the rate this is going, we could see that.”

As alarming as the metrics are, just as alarming is how quickly they accelerated. Three weeks ago the metrics showed Ohio beating the virus. Now?

“This thing has roared back,” DeWine said, adding every indicator is trending in the wrong direction. Once he referred to the virus as a “red tide" spreading “throughout all of Ohio."

Two-thirds of Ohioans live in a 'red' county, according to the state advisory system, which indicates "very high exposure and spread" in those counties.
Two-thirds of Ohioans live in a 'red' county, according to the state advisory system, which indicates "very high exposure and spread" in those counties. (Source: Ohio Department of Health)

It’s spreading fastest around Greater Cincinnati, a region that previously had been spared a true case surge. DeWine even praised Hamilton County for its mask compliance and success battling the virus in the halcyon days of August.

No longer. Southwest Ohio’s COVID-19 incident rates are double what the White House considers a ‘high incident level’ for the virus, DeWine said.

As for where the virus is spreading, it’s not in what the governor described as “formal” settings: high-school and college classrooms or sporting events with limited capacities and mask use.

“What’s dangerous is the times where we let our guard down,” DeWine said. “It’s human nature when we are with friends, with family, it’s natural, we don’t feel a threat (...) But that’s where we’re really seeing this spread. We’re seeing it spread at funerals, weddings, churches, people just getting together informally.”

The good news, according to DeWine, is Ohioans already know how to beat the virus: mask use, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

“Wearing masks is really the key,” he said. “So I would say to my fellow Ohioans, I know you’re tired. I’m tired of this too. Im tired of the coronavirus. I’m tired of not being able to get really close to my grandkids. (...) But it is so very important not to get knocked back down by the virus.”

The governor continued: “Those collective decisions will determine whether we can keep schools open this fall or winter. (...) Wearing a mask will keep us all working and keep our economy moving.”

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