CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ohio’s Mike DeWine chose not to join some fellow Republican governors in other states in rushing to almost immediately lift coronavirus restrictions. But just exactly when Ohio could reach the goal set by DeWine is unclear.
The COVID-19 tracking measure DeWine announced Thursday evening for when he will drop the restrictions is not one that had been regularly publicized by the state, and the full historical trend was not immediately available.
But state health officials said Friday cases would have to drop to a mid-June level to meet the benchmark the governor described – 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period, which is less than one-third the current rate.
“I would not expect us to reach this threshold in just a few weeks,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio’s chief medical officer. “I think it will be longer than a few weeks. How much longer, we just don’t know.”
This measure is not tied to the daily reporting of new cases; rather it is calculated by tabulating the known cases with an onset of symptoms, or first discovered, within the last two weeks. The rate excludes incarcerated individuals. And the rate doesn’t account for how many infections might have occurred during this time period that won’t be discovered until later – a regular occurrence.
Vanderhoff said that with testing plentiful in Ohio, he believes this measure is a solid data point to track the spread of the virus in a more timely fashion than hospitalizations, which often don’t occur until days after a person becomes infected.
The rates will be reported each Thursday. Ohio through this week stood at 179.6 new cases per 100,000, down, the governor said, from 445 a month ago and 731 in December.
See related story: A year of COVID-19 in Ohio, told through the numbers
Vanderhoff, while saying he wished he “had a crystal ball,” added that he was encouraged by the sharp turn toward fewer cases as vaccinations have ramped up and that he was confident the state eventually would reach the threshold of 50 cases per 100,000.
The health department has not provided the week-by-week historical statewide rates. Yet county-by-county numbers reported weekly as part of the the state’s coronavirus alert system – the system for placing counties on red alert – does provide some clues as to how much things must improve before Ohio could drop below the threshold.
In rates published since late July, Cuyahoga County has never been below 50 cases per 100,000, with the low point of 50.28 cases per 100,000 over the two weeks leading up to the Oct. 1 report.
And the only times Cuyahoga County has been below even 100 cases per 100,000 were in the two-week reports released from Aug. 20 through Oct. 15.
Cuyahoga’s rate stood at 204.85 per 100,000 in the report released on Thursday, up from 186.95 a week ago. Yet Cuyahoga is down sharply from the high of 907.64 cases per 100,000 reported on Dec. 17.
Just one Ohio county this week was below 50 cases per 100,000, that being Holmes County at 47.8. Eight others had rates between 50 and 100 cases per 100,000, and the 79 other counties were all above 100.
As to whether the state as a whole could drop below 50 per 100,000, the encouraging sign is how quickly the case numbers have dropped this winter at the same time the vaccine has been rolling out.
Here are the most recently released two-week rates per 100,000, excluding incarcerated individuals, by county. This covers Feb. 17 through Tuesday, March 2. The case numbers are based on the estimated first date of symptoms, when known.
Rich Exner, data analysis editor for cleveland.com, writes about numbers on a variety of topics. Follow on Twitter @RichExner. See other data-related stories at cleveland.com/datacentral.
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