"No place left to hide": Ohio virus cases continue to surge
By FARNOUSH AMIRI and ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS Report for America/Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine gave a grave warning Thursday as nearly every county in the state was at a high-risk level for coronavirus infections.
“There is no place left to hide,” he said.
The Buckeye State is among dozens of other states facing a new wave of virus infections, with Ohio now breaking records previously set when the pandemic first hit in March.
“We have to come together to fight this enemy,” DeWine said during a briefing Thursday. “We have got to get back to basics.”
The Republican governor called on leaders of each county to create a “COVID defense team,” to assess how to stop the spread of the virus infection on a local level. DeWine said the group will include county commissioners, mayors and local hospital leaders.
The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen from 1,563 new cases per day on Oct. 14 to 2,477 new cases per day on Oct. 28.
The Ohio Health Department reported 3,590 daily virus cases Thursday, the highest in the state’s pandemic history, and 25% higher than the previous record reported Saturday.
There are currently 1,536 people hospitalized with COVID-19 related symptoms, with 224 of those patients on ventilators, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
No counties were moved to purple Level 4 advisory Thursday, despite DeWine warning that Cuyahoga, Clark and Hamilton counties were all on the brink of being elevated for the past two weeks. If a county reaches Level 4, the state will bar residents from leaving home except for supplies and essential services.
DeWine said the infection spread is happening mostly in social gatherings and less in bars, businesses and schools.
But the governor remained optimistic about Ohioans’ ability to once again combat the latest surge in infections.
“We can in fact slow down this invader,” DeWine said. “The decisions each Ohioan makes each day will determine what kind of winter we have.”
The announcement came on a day when the initial claims for unemployment compensation remained above 17,000, essentially unchanged over the past two weeks.
Ohioans filed 17,531 claims for the week ending Oct. 24, just down from the 17,598 filed the previous week, according to the Department of Job and Family Services. While the number of initial claims is gradually falling, they’re still more than twice as high as for the same week a year ago.
To date during the pandemic, the state has paid $7.1 billion in unemployment compensation payments to more than 830,000 Ohioans.
Ohio has pledged several financial efforts recently to help individuals and businesses hurt by the pandemic. They include a record $5 billion in repayments from the state insurance fund for injured workers announced Wednesday and $420 million in federal pandemic aid going to small businesses, colleges and universities, restaurants and bars, nonprofits and arts groups, among others.
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.