COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday he would not announce further COVID-19 restrictions at today’s 2 p.m. press conference even though 82 out of 88 Ohio counties are considered "high incidence" counties.
Counties considered "high incidence" have seen more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks.
Though DeWine has repeatedly committed to avoiding future shutdowns, he said he's not ruling anything out to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 cases are increasing faster than ever before across the state in both rural and urban areas, DeWine said.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” DeWine said.
The Ohio Department of Health Wednesday reported 193,451 confirmed cases of COVID-19, to date — 2,382 more than reported Tuesday, including 45 new cases in the Mahoning Valley.
When DeWine updates The Ohio Public Health Advisory System Thursday, we'll learn if any "red" counties become "purple." Counties with this designation could face hospital capacity issues, DeWine said. There are no orders or restrictions associated with this designation.
To become "purple," the state requires a county to the criteria for Level 4 two weeks in a row. No county has reached "purple" since the map was instituted in July.
"We do not have any intention, if these counties go purple, to issue any kind of particular order," DeWine said.
DeWine on Wednesday emphasized what he said during his Tuesday press conference: local leaders must redouble their efforts against the coronavirus. He said people need to limit or cancel large gatherings and continue to wear a mask.
“It really is going to come down to each community, taking charge and pushing back against the crisis,” he said. “Our emphasis has been focusing on that because that is where we’re seeing the most spread."
DeWine said it comes down to what individuals do to protect themselves and others to help slow the spread of coronavirus in their counties. The recent increase in COVID-19 cases is not being caused by businesses or schools but by people and their personal lives.
In school, everyone is socially distanced and require everyone to wear masks, but after school, people are gathering with friends and family and not wearing masks.
“One is safe, or safe as it can be made, and the other is highly dangerous,” DeWine said.
DeWine said he would not issue an order Thursday closing schools. He will continue to leave the decision up to local school districts. DeWine does not think he is sending a mixed message on allowing schools to continue but discouraging large gatherings.
“The message is if you’re wearing a mask and you’re careful, you can go about your life,” DeWine said. “If you’re not wearing a mask, you’re not careful, doing things you might have thought that was OK a year ago, Until we get out of this pandemic, they become a high-risk proposition.”
• According to the latest figures Wednesday from the Ohio Department of Health, the state is reporting 205,347 confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus. There have been 3,910 confirmed or suspected cases in Mahoning County; 2,414 in Trumbull County; and 2,204 in Columbiana County.
• Statewide, there have been 5,256 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 deaths, including 287 in Mahoning County; 134 in Trumbull; and 88 in Columbiana. Mahoning County's 286 reported COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday was fifth among Ohio's 88 counties; Cuyahoga County had the most with 686.
• In nearby counties: Stark, 4,125 cases and 185 deaths; Portage, 1,747 cases and 68 deaths; and Ashtabula, 779 cases and 48 deaths.
• DeWine announced Wednesday that he'll request the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation to send up to $5 billion in dividends to Ohio employers to ease the financial impact from the pandemic. If approved by BWC's Board of Directors, it would bring the total dividend dollars for Ohio employers this year to $8 billion. The next round of check could go out in December.
• According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday, there are 200,674 COVID-19 cases in the state which have led to 8,718 deaths. The state said the recovery rate is 77 percent. There have been 1,052 confirmed or suspected cases in Mercer County and 26 deaths; 879 cases in Lawrence County and 34 deaths.
• The workforce in Pennsylvania is experiencing the fourth fastest recovery from the layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a WalletHub study of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Ohio ranked 20th in the study which looked at the change in the number of unemployment insurance initial claims in the latest (41st) week of 2020 vs. the same week in 2019.
• Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County’s board of trustees approved the emergency purchase of air-filtration systems for library buildings Wednesday. Library Executive Director Aimee Fifarek sought an urgent necessity exception to the competitive bidding requirements so air-filtration equipment could be purchased quickly with CARES Act money. Air-filtration units will be installed in all branch libraries in the PLYMC system at an estimated cost of $92,000 each.
• Sebring Local Schools on Tuesday received a Quad-Sink handwashing station, provided by Mahoning County commissioners through 2020 federal CARES Act funding. The district plans to use the station in the McKinley Jr./Sr. High cafeteria during lunch times and at public events, including football games.
• Mahoning County Public Health has scheduled flu shot clinics for Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at their offices, 50 Westchester Drive, Youngstown. An appointment is required for these clinics. To schedule, call 330-270-2855, ext. 125.
• ONE Health Ohio will be offering free drive-thru COVID-19 testing to the Warren community for patients 5 years of age or older on Friday. Testing will be available at the Lloyd McCoy Community Health Center, 1977 Niles Road SE, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Register by calling 330-884-6122 by Thursday at 11 a.m.
• Trick-or-treating will continue as normal for most of Mahoning Valley this Halloween despite the CDC guidelines which list the tradition as a high-risk activity. A few cities have canceled traditional trick-or-treating or created alternative plans. See the complete list here.