Coronavirus: ‘We have never seen this many deaths,' Clark County health commissioner says

Clark County was removed from the Ohio Public Health Advisory System level 4 watch list on Thursday as officials expressed concern that the coronavirus pandemic is worsening across the state and locally.

Level 4, or purple, is the system’s most severe rating. The county remains at level 3, or red.

The county was one of three counties placed on the purple watch list last week. Gov. Mike DeWine said in his weekly update of coronavirus levels that all three countries on the list, which include Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties, qualified for level 4 last week but that none of the counties met the criteria this week.

“This week their cases and hospitalizations are at an elevated plateau – removing them from the list. Even though they are not purple – there are still serious concerns here,” DeWine said.

Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner Charles Patterson said he’s happy the county didn’t reach the system’s most severe level but warns residents that isn’t a sign “things are getting better.”

“My main concern is that I don’t want people to let their guard down because we didn’t go purple. That would be a grave mistake – a deadly mistake,” Patterson said.

Ohio reported 3,590 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. It was the first time the state reported more than 3,000 cases in a day and beat the state’s previous record set on Saturday by more than 700.

“This is by far the highest cases we’ve ever seen,” DeWine said. “The virus is raging throughout the state and there is nowhere to hide.”

The governor called on Ohioans to get back to the basics to fight the virus, including washing hands, wearing masks, practicing social distancing and having good ventilation while inside.

“Despite (Thursday’s) grim data, I’m optimistic,” DeWine said. “Ohioans have the tools, they know what works and we always rally when we need to rally. I know people will do that. We can slow down this invader. The decisions each Ohioan makes each day determine what kind of winter we have.”

Clark County case trends are similar to those across the state.

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DeWine said CCCHD officials told his office that the county is seeing “alarming increases" with 271 cases reported in the last seven days and 41 deaths in the month of October.

“What we see in these three counties is similar to what we see in the rest of the state - case numbers are continuing to go up and healthcare utilization is trending upward,” DeWine said. “This is concerning. This is not good.”

Patterson agreed with DeWine’s assessment of the county’s case and death count, but said he “doesn’t understand” the state’s justification for keeping the county at level 3.

“We have had 271 new cases in the last seven days. We have never had that many. Not even close. We have never seen this many deaths; it’s more than double what we have seen in any other month since COVID began,” Patterson said. “So I don’t really know what else to say.”

The advisory system was “built on the fly” and therefore both county health departments and ODH haven’t “had years to study how it works and perfect it so sometimes the numbers don’t add up,” Patterson said.

Clark County had 2,766 cases, 84 deaths and four probable deaths of the coronavirus as of Thursday afternoon, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

COVID-19 deaths in Clark County by month.
COVID-19 deaths in Clark County by month.

The state’s advisory system ranges from level 1, or yellow as lowest to level 4 or purple as highest and most severe. Last week was Clark County’s first time on the watch list for level 4. No county has been designated as purple since the alert system was launched in July.

ODH uses seven indicators when judging what level to give a county. Last week, Clark County hit six, the most for the county in a single week.

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 and sustained increase in new COVID hospital admissions. The only indicator the county did not hit is ICU bed occupancy.

This week the county hit four: new cases per capita, proportion of cases not in a congregate spread, sustained increase in new cases and sustained increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness.

The county saw a drop in both emergency department visits and hospital admissions, according to data from ODH.

On Oct. 12, the county’s seven-day emergency department visit average was 6.14. On Oct. 20 department visits dipped to an average of 0.86 before rising again by Tuesday to 1.86, according to data from ODH.

During that same time-frame, the seven-day hospital admission average bounced from 0.86 on Oct. 12 to its peak of 1.71 on Oct. 20 back down to 0.29 on Tuesday.

In total, Ohio reported the state has had 208,937 cases and 5,275 deaths of COVID-19, according to ODH.

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Facts & Figures:

2,766: Total cases of COVID-19 in Clark County

88: Total COVID-19 deaths in Clark County

41: COVID-19 deaths in Clark County in October

Free mask distribution:

The Clark County Emergency Management Agency will be giving out free face masks at three upcoming distribution events. Events will take place:

3 to 5 p.m., Friday, Springview Government Center located at 3130 E. Main St. in Springfield

3 to 5 p.m., Saturday, Bethel Twp. Fire Department located at 3333 Lake Rd. in Medway

1 to 3 p.m., Monday, Former Kroger parking lot located at 1822 S. Limestone St. in Springfield

Share your story with the News-Sun

The Springfield News-Sun is committed to providing in-depth coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on Clark County. How have you and your family been affected by the pandemic? We want to hear you story. Contact us at SNS-Local@coxinc.com or Riley.Newton@coxinc.com.

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