VIA FLICKR/YOUNG SHANAHAN
While individual cities including Cleveland and Dayton have in the past week made masks mandatory as coronavirus infections spike, Gov. Mike DeWine today announced the state would make masks mandatory across whole counties that are currently at Level 3 on the state's public health advisory system.
Level 3 "means there is a very high exposure and spread of COVID and the county has triggered four or five indicators. Seven counties are currently at Level 3. This means there are many cases of community spread present — in workplaces, social settings, long-term care facilities."
Statewide numbers released today show Ohio's COVID-19 hospitalization and death totals more than double the 21-day average.
Cuyahoga County, which was set to consider its own mandatory mask rule independent of today's announcement by DeWine, is included.
"I think the biggest threat to us from an economic point of view is this virus continuing to go up," DeWine said at today's press conference. "We thought this was a precise approach for those counties that are red-hot, frankly... It should be a real signal that when we look at this data we have a great deal to worry about."
The order, which includes requirements for riding and waiting for public transit, outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible, and inside places other than residences, will take effect tomorrow evening.
Violations could result in misdemeanor charges.
If the counties drop to Level 2 the order will end.
A reminder on how the indicators and levels work:
Indicator 1: New cases per capita. If there are 50 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period, it will trigger a flag for an increasing case rate. This is the same figure the CDC uses for going from moderate to moderately high.
Indicator 2: Sustained increase in new cases. This is triggered if there is a five day period of sustained new case growth.
Indicator 3: Proportion of cases that are not congregate cases. This is triggered if more than 50% of cases are from community spread and not congregate cases.
Indicator 4: Sustained increase in emergency room visits. This is triggered if there is an increase in ER visits with COVID symptoms over a five day period.
Indicator 5: Sustained increase in outpatient visits. This is triggered if there is an increase in visits with COVID symptoms over a five day period.
Indicator 6: Sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions. This is triggered if there is at least a five day period of county residents with COVID-19 being admitted to a hospital. The county where they come from is recorded, not the county where the hospital is located.
Indicator 7: Intensive Care Unit bed occupancy. This flag looks at COVID and non-COVID ICU beds. When regional ICU occupancy goes above 80% for at least three of the last seven days, this is triggered.
Level 1: Yellow — At this level there is active exposure and spread, but the county has triggered zero or one of the indicators. Today 53 counties are at Level 1. The recommendation at Level 1 is to follow the usual COVID-19 guidelines we all know — wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask in public places, etc.
Level 2: Orange — This means a county has triggered two or three indicators and there is an increased amount of exposure and spread. Residents here should exercise a high degree of caution.
In addition to standard COVID safety, Level 2 residents should: avoid contact with anyone considered high risk, decrease in-person interactions in general and limit or avoid unnecessary trips to visit people in hospital, nursing homes or residential care.
Level 3: Red — This means there is a very high exposure and spread of COVID and the county has triggered four or five indicators. Seven counties are currently at Level 3. This means there are many cases of community spread present — in workplaces, social settings, long-term care facilities.
In addition to regular COVID safety guidelines, residents in these counties should: limit activities as much as possible, wear a mask when they go out, consider online options, even for church services, consider necessary travel only and limit attending gatherings of any kind.
Level 4: Purple — Counties in Level 4 have triggered six or seven indicators. This means there is severe exposure and spread. Ohioans in Level 4 should only leave home as necessary.