CLEVELAND, Ohio - Ohios weekly coronavirus alert map, originally designed to educate the public on county-level concerns for spread based on a variety of seven criteria, has evolved into a single test for nearly every Ohio county - the number of new cases per capita in the last two weeks.
That explains why the same counties have been flagged as being under Level 3 red alert (with one exception) for the last seven weeks going back to before Christmas. The one exception is Hamilton County (Cincinnati), which for two weeks was at the higher concern level of purple.
Thursdays update mirrored the others - 84 red alert counties, with the same four being assigned a step lower for concern at orange alert. Those are Gallia, Hocking, Monroe and Vinton in Southeast Ohio.
Why has this occurred?
The simple answer is that new cases over the last two weeks, excluding incarcerated individuals, have in every county remained above 100 per 100,000 - a level considered by the Centers for Disease Control as high incidence.
This level is exceeded for all 88 counties.
Why are four orange and 84 red?
Once a county reaches Level 3 red by at some point being flagged for concern in at least four of the seven areas - ranging from new cases to things like doctor and ER visits - it isnt dropped down to the lower levels of orange or yellow unless its case rate also drops below 100 per 100,000, the Ohio Department of Health confirmed.
This doesnt mean, however, that current conditions in all the red counties are worse than in the four orange counties. In fact, this week as an example, red Cuyahoga County was flagged for meeting concern criteria in two of the seven areas tracked. But orange counties Hocking and Vinton each met three areas of concern.
And in the key indicator of new cases per 100,000 orange counties, several red counties had lower rates than the four orange counties. For the orange counties, Monroe had the 29th highest rate among Ohios 88 counties (468.7 per 100,000), Gallia 61st (361.2), Hocking 69th (329) and Vinton 82nd (275.1).
As for red alert Cuyahoga, it was the middle statewide at 42nd with 415 cases per 100,000.
The lowest rates are for Harrison County (232.7), Shelby (226.4), Holmes (209.3) and Noble (173.3) - all labeled as red alert counties. The highest rates are for Brown (812.8), Muskingum (665.8) and Pickaway (653.5).
Elsewhere in Greater Cleveland: Geauga County (551 cases per 100,000), Portage (514), Lorain (500.3), Lake (469.7), Medina (409.5), Summit (396.5),
Heres a closer look at the advisory system Gov. Mike DeWine introduced in early July.
* 1. New cases - Alert triggered when there are 50 new cases per cases 100,000 residents over the last two weeks.
* 2. Increase in new cases - Alert triggered by an increase in cases for five straight days at any point over the last three weeks. This is based on the date of onset of symptoms, not when the cases are reported.
* 3. Non-congregate living cases - Alert triggered when at least 50% of the new cases in one of the last three weeks have occurred in outside congregate living spaces such as nursing homes and prisons.
* 4. Emergency rooms - Alert triggered when there is an increase in visits for COVID-like symptoms or a diagnosis for five straight days at any point in the last three weeks.
* 5. Doctor visits - Alert triggered when there is an increase in out-patient visits resulting in confirmed cases or suspected diagnosis for COVID-19 for five straight days at any point in the last three weeks.
* 6. Hospitalizations - Alert triggered when there is an increase in new COVID-19 patients for five straight days at any point over the last three weeks. This is based on the county or residence, not the location of the hospital.
* 7. Intensive Care Unit occupancy - Alert triggered when ICU occupancy in a region exceeds 80% of total ICU beds and at least 20% of the beds are being used for coronavirus patients for at least three days in the last week.
Rich Exner, data analysis editor for cleveland.com, writes about numbers on a variety of topics. Follow on Twitter @RichExner. See other data-related stories at cleveland.com/datacentral.
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