COVID-19 update— Greene goes down to ‘orange’
- Published: June 2, 2021
It’s official: Greene County is no longer “red” on the statewide public health advisory heat map.
On Thursday, May 13, Greene County fell below the threshold of 100 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 over two weeks to turn “orange” on the map. It dipped all the way to 71.03.
Greene County had been “red,” indicating “very high exposure and spread” of the novel coronavirus, since October 15, 2020. “Orange” denotes “increased exposure and spread.” Only 17 counties in the state are still “red.”
Greene would drop to “yellow,” the lowest health emergency level, if its case incidence falls below 50 per 100,000.
In recent weeks, cases of COVID-19 in the county, and the state, have plummeted, and are now on par with levels seen during the summer of 2020. It’s been over two weeks since a new COVID-19 case was recorded in the 45387 area code.
Experts say vaccinations, combined with natural immunity, have crushed the spread of the virus. As of this week, nearly 5.2 million Ohioans had received at least one shot, 44.3% of the population.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine hailed the progress at a briefing on Monday, May 24, announcing that the state’s case incidence rate through May 23 stood at 89.8 per 100,000, a figure that is dropping by about two points per day.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” DeWine said.
Meanwhile, 767 Ohioans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 242 in intensive care and 150 on a ventilator. But that’s down from the nearly 5,200 people who were in the hospital during the December 2020 peak.
“That number is coming down and we’re very, very happy with that,” DeWine said of hospitalization figures.
DeWine also expressed pleasure that state vaccination rates, which had been falling for three weeks, turned around after he unveiled the “Ohio Vax-a-Million” contest, a lottery where vaccinated people can win $1 million or a college scholarship.
Vaccinations in Ohio went up more than 30% over the week, with the largest increases coming from 16- and 17-year-olds (94%), 20- to 49-year-olds (55%), and 18- and 19-year-olds (46%), according to DeWine.
“We’re very happy about that,” DeWine said of the vaccination uptick. “It’s what we hoped we’d see.”
During the question and answer session, some reporters challenged the lottery’s benefits, stating that it could be seen as bribery or otherwise undermine the value of vaccination.
DeWine defended the lottery, saying that it was not meant to convince those who didn’t want a vaccine to take one. Instead, he intended to convince a “middle” group of people who “didn’t feel strongly about this one way or another” to get vaccinated sooner, rather than later.
“Moving that date [of vaccination] up for individuals has great benefit for them, and it has great benefit for the rest of us,” he added.
However, DeWine said the state still needs to work harder to vaccinate some Ohioans, especially Medicaid beneficiaries, who only have a 22% vaccination rate.
“That is obviously a number we are not happy with. It is much much too low,” he said.
Moving forward, the state will continue to promote vaccination as the main tactic to keep COVID-19 at bay, DeWine said. He wants to get out the message that getting vaccinated means a return to normalcy.
“We live in the world of two Ohios,” he said. “The people who are vaccinated are safe. The people who are not vaccinated are not safe.”
After June 2?
During his briefing, DeWine also addressed what will happen after June 2, when all state health orders related to the pandemic expire.
Specifically, DeWine said that schools and other institutions may still require isolation (when someone has COVID-19) and quarantine (when someone may have been exposed to COVID-19).
“While this is not a state health order, it is standard infection control practice,” DeWine said.
DeWine clarified that those who have been vaccinated do not need to either isolate or quarantine.
“Isolation and quarantine will be done as they were before,” he added. “Beginning June 2, in coordination with CDC, if they have not been vaccinated, they should isolate if they test positive.”
Asked whether county health departments will still technically have the power to enforce those measures after June 2, DeWine said his reading of the law is that they would if they had evidence of exposure or a confirmed COVID-19 case.
“When dealing with deadly communicable diseases, isolating people who are sick has been done for hundreds, if not thousands of years,” he said.
DeWine pointed specifically to unvaccinated children as among those needing to quarantine and isolate when they return to school in the fall. Starting on June 2, he added, school districts will themselves decide whether to continue masking and social distancing practices.
“As of today, a child 11 years of age and younger cannot be vaccinated. I would hope that schools, superintendents, school boards, will take that into consideration,” he said.
Asked whether the health advisory system would remain in place past June 2, a Greene County Public Health spokesperson referred this reporter to the Ohio Department of Health this week. An inquiry to that agency was not returned by press time.