COLUMBUS - Henry County is one of the 13 counties in the state which is the third level (red) in the public health advisory system, as the county nears 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
As the state recorded 1,733 new daily cases Thursday, the highest daily number of cases recorded in the state since the beginning of the pandemic. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the updated map, which places Henry County in the third level (red) for the second week in a row.
Overall, DeWine pointed to good news in urban areas, where the number of new cases are slowing, and he noted many of them have been under a face mask mandate longer than the statewide mandate now in effect. However, DeWine said, more rural areas are seeing numbers rise and he is receiving reports those areas have less people wearing the masks.
"That spread will continue," he said, encouraging people to wear the face masks and social distance. "We have to slow it down."
DeWine noted Henry County is among five counties designated red that have triggered four or more of the state's seven indicators used in the advisory system. The remaining eight counties are seeing a decreasing number of cases but are above the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition of high incidences of cases.
In Henry County, there were 24 confirmed cases at the end of June but July will close out with 97 confirmed cases and nine probable cases as of Friday afternoon, according to the Henry County Health Department.
DeWine referred to a Name That Tune event at Leisure Time Winery July 11 which has now been linked to 90 confirmed cases of the virus spanning five surrounding counties.
"To date, this is just sad, 90 people have contracted the disease," DeWine said. "What we're now seeing is called secondary spread - people who were infected with the virus from the initial event carried on to other people in the community ... who tested positive.
"The purpose is not to pick on the folks at the winery or to say that what was going on there was necessarily bad," he continued. "The point is that in casual events, when we're having fun, this thing can spread and we just have to be very, very careful."
Looking at the statewide map, DeWine noted there are only 23 counties in the level one (yellow), down from 54 counties the first week the map was unveiled.
"Only 12% of Ohioans today live in a yellow county ... while 44% live in red counties and another 44% live in orange counties," he said.
Lucas County remains in the red level as well, and DeWine noted it is seeing increases in cases.
Defiance County was in the level three (red) designation last week, but improved to move into the level two (orange) this week. DeWine said local health officials attributed the decrease to the community working to tamper hot spots, as well as contact tracing and residents following quarantine plus community partners stopping activities to help slow the spread.
"It is good, we can control this, we can get on top of this, these are just examples of doing that," DeWine said.
On Friday, the Fulton County Health Department reported its first confirmed death of a resident from COVID-19, a female in her 80s.
"We extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends," said Fulton County Health Commissioner Kim Cupp. "Now more than ever, each of us must do our part to prevent the spread of this virus and do what we can to protect each other."
As of Thursday, the Fulton County Health Department reported 133 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. Fulton, Wood, Putnam and Paulding counties are all designated as level two (orange) counties. Williams County is a level one (yellow).
DeWine also announced he requested the Ohio Liquor Control Commission call an emergency meeting to consider enacting a statewide emergency rule to limit liquor sales at establishments that serve alcohol for on-site consumption. The commission met Friday and adopted the rule, which prevents the sale of alcohol at these liquor-permitted establishments beginning at 10 p.m. each night. On-premises consumption must end by 11 p.m. Businesses may stay open, and establishments that sell food can continue serving meals until closing. DeWine said he has requested the new administrative rule after seeing outbreaks associated with bars across Ohio including Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus, but doesn't want to shut down the establishments statewide.
"We do not want to shut down Ohio bars and restaurants. That would be devastating to them, but we do have to take some action," DeWine said.
DeWine also noted a new health order is being issued and is a standalone version of orders already in place, including mass gatherings in Ohio remain limited to 10 people, which he acknowledged does have "significant exceptions."
"We have seen cases in recent weeks where outbreaks have been connected to informal social gatherings like birthday parties, neighborhood gatherings, graduation parties, weddings, funerals and gatherings at people’s homes," DeWine said. "The fact remains that this virus spreads when someone with the virus comes in contact with others who don’t yet have it. When we gather together with people outside our households, we increase the likelihood this virus can spread."
The order stills permit Ohioans to go to work, worship, go to school, and purchase goods and services, but is intended to offer clear recommendations on safely holding gatherings. Those include:
•Gatherings at a household or family residence should be limited to close friends and family and are recommended to be 10 visitors or less.
•Residents in a red or purple county, as designated by the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, should limit hosting or attending gatherings of any size.
•Wear a mask at all times at gatherings and maintain physical distance.
•Use take out, outdoor dining or indoor dining only when strict social distancing can be maintained.
•Take extra precautions if you go to bars or nightclubs, where use of masks typically is inconsistent and drinking alcohol can lead to less social distancing.
•Protect anyone with serious medical conditions at home by social distancing at home, wearing a mask and using high levels of personal hygiene.
•High-risk individuals should take extra precautions to limit the number of people they interact with.
•Make the group of people you interact with most often as small as possible and make sure that they are taking appropriate COVID-19 precautions – even if you are just gathering with family friends or neighbors at your home.