Coronavirus: Clark, Champaign remain level 3; DeWine suggests moving away from advisory system

Clark and Champaign County remained at a level 3 on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, which Gov. Mike DeWine says might not be the best representation of what is going on in counties right now.

All of but four of Ohio’s 88 counties are either at a level 3 (red) or 4 (purple) on the system. Because of the rising number of red counties each week, DeWine said in lieu of focusing on a county’s advisory level, residents should instead pay attention to things like their hospitalization numbers.

“While this color-coded system was very helpful when we launched it this summer, it really told us how the state was moving and what was going on in your county, but now when everything is virtually red the importance of it takes on less meaning,” DeWine said. “What I would advise everyone to do is look at what is going on in your hospitals.”

DeWine said because the system is designed to only move a county up a level when health care indicators steadily increase week-over-week, a county’s numbers can plateau at a “critical level,” but move down a level, making it appear as though things are getting better.

“What we are seeing with the advisory system (Thursday) is similar to what we have been seeing over the past month or so. We are seeing counties move to the watch, then purple, when we are seeing worsening trends in their health care indicators, and then many times they return to red when these trends plateau, even if they are at a very critically high level,” DeWine said.

Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner Charles Patterson has questioned the advisory system saying the same things DeWine said on Thursday. Patterson said the system was “built on the fly” back in October when Clark County was not upgraded to level 4, despite sky-rocketing cases and deaths.

“It can be harmful to people who see their level and think everything is fine, when in reality that just isn’t the case,” Patterson said previously.

The state’s advisory system ranges from level 1, or yellow as lowest, to level 4 or purple as highest and most severe. The ODH uses seven indicators when judging what level to give a county.

Indicators hit include new cases per capita, sustained increase in new cases, proportion of cases not in a congregate spread, sustained increase in emergency department visits for COVID-like illness, sustained increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness, sustained increase in new COVID hospital admissions and ICU bed occupancy.

Clark County hit four indicators this week: new cases per capita, proportion of cases not in a congregate spread, increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness and ICU bed occupancy. Champaign hit three of the same indicators as Clark County, minus an increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness.

Starting Friday, Ohio will be part of a federal program distributing the coronavirus vaccine to long-term care facility staff and residents, DeWine said. The vaccines will be received through Walgreen’s, CVS, PharmScript and Absolute Pharmacy.

“Ohio was invited by the CDC to participate in the scaling up of the federal program and we couldn’t be more excited,” the governor said.

Nursing homes were able to sign up with different pharmacy companies. DeWine noted that some did not sign up with any pharmacies, so the state will work on getting vaccines to those locations. If a nursing home opts out of getting the vaccine, residents and staff will be able to get them at a later date.

“It’s all a scheduling issue,” DeWine said.

Springfield Regional Medical Center was among the first 10 hospitals in Ohio to receive the first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. The shipment contained 975 doses of the vaccine that will be given first to health care personnel.

Next week, the Clark County Combined Health District, and other local health departments across the state, are slated to receive their own vaccines to be given to EMS personnel.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer at the Ohio Department of Health, said he hopes that people seeing health care workers and experts getting the vaccine will help reassure those with concerns.

“I assure you they wouldn’t be lining up to get those shots if they didn’t think they were going to be safe and effective,” Vanderhoff said.

Ohio recorded more than 100 deaths attributed to coronavirus for the third day in a row on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 7,894, according to ODH.

More than 11,000 daily cases were also reported, more than double the 5,409 recorded on Wednesday. According to ODH’s COVID-19 dashboard, technical issues resulted in a lower case count. Between the two days, the state averaged 8,411 cases, DeWine said.

In total, Ohio reported 596,178 total cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday.

Clark County had a total of 7,859 cases, 192 deaths and four probable deaths of the coronavirus as of Thursday, according to ODH. Champaign County had 1,589 cases, 12 deaths and five probable deaths.