Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday a new Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System that will help make clear the dangers of COVID-19 in Ohio counties.
As COVID-19 cases in the state rise, DeWine said the color-coded system is built on data to assess the spread of the virus and inform and empower individuals, businesses and local government in their response.
The alert system has four levels to provide Ohioans with guidance on the severity of the problem in counties in which they live. The levels are determined by seven data indicators that identify the risk level for each county and a corresponding color code to represent each risk level. Below are the seven data indicators:
- New cases per capita: When data shows a county has had an average of 50 cases per 10,000 people over a two week period that will trigger a flag for an increased case rate. Using this data, means health officials are taking into account the population of a county when monitoring case increases.
- A 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 data shows at least a five-day period of sustained growth in cases.
- Proportion of cases not congregate cases: Data showing more than 50 percent of new cases originating from non-congregate settings during at least one of the pas three weeks will trigger a flag.
- Sustained increase in ER visits: ER data will show health officials trends in the number of people who visit an emergency department with COVID-19 symptoms or a COVID-19 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 telehealth 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 are admitted to a hospital the county will be flagged for meeting this indicator.
- ICU bed occupancy: This indicator looks at data for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 use of ICU beds. A county will be flagged for this indicator when the regional ICU occupancy goes about 80 percent for at least three of the last seven days.
The state is also working to refine additional measurements including contact tracing, tests per capita and percent positivity.
Based on these date indicators, the color-coded system will provide counties with guidance on the severity of the problem:
- Alert level 1 (Yellow): A county has triggered zero or one of the seven indicators and there is active exposure and spread. Currently, 53 counties are at Alert Level 1. The majority of these counties are seeing a moderate number of cases.
- Alert level 2 (Orange): A county has triggered two or three of the seven indicators and there is an increased risk of exposure and spread. There are currently 28 counties in this category. These counties are seeing cases that are growing in the community in the last two weeks.
- Alert level 3 (Red): A county has triggered four or five of the seven indicators and there is very high exposure and spread. There are currently seven Ohio counties at this level. Ohioans in these counties should limit activities as much as possible and wear a mask when they go out.
- Alert level 4 (Purple): A county has triggered six to seven of the indicators and there is severe exposure and spread. Ohioans in these counties should stay home as much as possible. There are currently no counties at this level.
With five of seven indicators, Franklin County is currently at alert level 3. DeWine said Franklin County is on a "watch list" because growth in the number of new cases is explosive, with much of that growth taking place in the last seven days. With 1,500 new cases in the last two weeks, DeWine said Franklin County is close to alert level 4.