Ohio Public Health Advisory System

Ohio Public Health Advisory System, as of Thursday, Aug. 6. Image provided.

Athens County is no longer in the “orange” in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. The Ohio Department of Health announced Thursday afternoon that the county has been downgraded to a Level 1 county, indicated on the system’s map with the color yellow.

Typically Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine gives updates related to the pandemic through daily press conferences at 2 p.m., but Thursday's was delayed after he tested positive for COVID-19 before greeting President Donald Trump in Cleveland. He later tested negative for the virus.

The Athens City-County Health Department issued a statement regarding the change in status in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, urging residents to not let their guard down despite the recent decline in reported cases.

"All residents, regardless of the alert level of their county, should continue to conduct daily symptom checks and stay home if sick. Ohio residents are required to wear a facial covering (with exceptions) in public, even when gathering outside and unable to keep a distance of at least 6 feet," the Athens City-County Health Department stated in a press release issued today.

The health department also advised that residents maintain regular hand washing and hand sanitizing practices and to frequently clean high-touch surfaces such as door handles, key pads and handrails.

Additionally, the health department noted in the press release that given the impending return of Ohio University students and others in the area who left the county for vacations, "everyone must continue to practice prevention measures to keep businesses open and the community safe."

In July, Athens was the only county in the state nearing Level 4, the most severe public health advisory, which would encourage residents to “only leave home for services and supplies.” It has since been demoted as the numbers of reported and active cases have decreased in recent weeks.

ODH and the National Guard, in cooperation with the Athens City-County Health Department, are hosting a drive-thru testing site this Friday, Aug. 7 at the Athens High School in The Plains from 1-6 p.m. where residents can be tested free of charge and without a physicians’ order or an appointment, unlike all other sites in the area

As of Thursday afternoon, there are now 353 total known cases of the COVID-19 in Athens County, according to the Athens City-County Health Department. Currently, there are 71 known active cases and 281 recovered cases of COVID-19 in the county.

Here are the known cases by age in Athens County, according to the Ohio Department of Health:

  • 0-19: 29
  • 20-29: 237
  • 30-39: 29
  • 40-49: 15
  • 50-59: 16
  • 60-69: 18
  • 70-79: 6
  • 80+: 3

Statewide, confirmed and probable cases of the virus are also increasing daily. ODH reported that there are now 97,471 total COVID-19 cases in Ohio, and 3,618 deaths associated with the virus.

Earlier this month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System, a new coronavirus (COVID-19) warning system. The system measures the severity of the virus in Ohio’s counties by several case indicators: new cases per capita, sustained increase in new cases, proportion of cases that are not congregate cases, sustained increase in emergency room visits, sustained increase in outpatient visits, sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions and intensive care unit (ICU) bed occupancy.

These indicators determine at what level a county rests in the Public Health Advisory Alert System.

Level 1 counties have “active exposure and spread” of the virus and have triggered zero to one of the seven case indicators. Level 2 counties have “increased exposure and spread” and have triggered two to three of the case indicators. The Ohio Department of Health recommends those traveling to or residing in these counties exercise a high degree of caution.” Level 3 counties have “very high exposure and spread” and have triggered four to five of the case indicators.

ODH recommends residents in those counties “limit activities as much as possible.”

According to the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, Athens County has triggered one of the seven indicators under the alert system: proportion of cases that are not congregate cases.

Between July 31 and Aug. 6, the county had a non-congregate percentage of cases of 100 percent.

No counties in Ohio are classified as Level 4 as of Thursday, but several counties reportedly have “severe exposure and spread” of the virus and have triggered six to seven of the case indicators.

sdawes@vintoncourier.com; @sydneydawes_95

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