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Groundhog Day in October: As cases surge, DeWine again begs for mask use

"... We're not seeing the number of cases peak. we're not seeing the number of hospitalizations peak and until we know where the peak of that curve is, it's a little anxiety-provoking," said Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center.

COLUMBUS — When asked to respond to Ohioans who wish he was doing more to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday, "I ask myself that question every single day. I ask myself what else we can do."

Seven months into the pandemic, DeWine's answer hasn't changed. In the face of a record coronavirus surge in the state this month, he again pleaded with Ohioans to wear masks. 

In the last two weeks, the state has set new records for most new cases in a single day four different times. On Tuesday, Ohio reported its largest one-day increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.  According to the Ohio Department of Health, the state reported 174,859 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, to date — 1,862 more than reported Monday, including 48 new cases in the Mahoning Valley.

"There are more people in the hospital with COVID-19 than [at] any other time," DeWine said Tuesday. He called recent hospitalization rates in the state "literally shocking numbers."

Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, explained the state's hospital capacity is not currently in peril. But, with flu season approaching, that could change. 

"The concern I think that we have is we're not seeing the number of cases peak. we're not seeing the number of hospitalizations peak and until we know where the peak of that curve is, it's a little anxiety-provoking ... At this point, we just don't know where it's going to top out."

The surging numbers will not peak without action from Ohioans, DeWine said. He said if 85 to 95 percent of Ohioans wear masks, "we're gonna knock this thing down."

Although a statewide mask mandate has been in effect since July 23, plenty of Ohioans get away with not wearing them, as the order is nearly impossible to enforce because there are no consequences for individuals who do not comply. 

"It is within our capacity to change the future," he said. "And the fastest way we can do it is not for me to issue some order that you can't enforce of would be difficult to enforce, but rather for every Ohioan to take this seriously."

Other entities have taken a different approach and established legal mandates.

For example, New York City decided to start fining people who don't wear masks after the city's coronavirus positivity rate rose above 3 percent for the first time since June. Connecticut, Charleston, S.C.more than 20 California cities and the NFL have also instituted fines for noncompliance. 

Other news

• According to the latest figures Tuesday from the Ohio Department of Health, the state is reporting 185,639 confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus. There have been 3,635 confirmed or suspected cases in Mahoning County; 2,221 in Trumbull County; and 2,101 in Columbiana County.

• Statewide, there have been 5,083 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 deaths, including 283 in Mahoning County; 134 in Trumbull; and 87 in Columbiana. Mahoning County's 283 reported COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday was fifth among Ohio's 88 counties; Cuyahoga County had the most with 675.

• In nearby counties: Stark, 3,696 cases and 178 deaths; Portage, 1,561 cases and 67 deaths; and Ashtabula, 721 cases and 48 deaths.

• Ohio Tuesday reported 216 new COVID-19 hospitalizations — the largest single-day increase throughout the pandemic. "There are more people in the hospital with COVID-19 than [at] any other time," Gov. Mike DeWine said during Tuesday's briefing, noting If cases and hospitalizations continue to rise as flu season ramps up, it will threaten hospital capacity.

• According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Tuesday, there are 184,872 COVID-19 cases in the state which have led to 8,533 deaths. The state said the recovery rate is 79 percent. There have been 916 confirmed or suspected cases in Mercer County and 25 deaths; 741 cases in Lawrence County and 26 deaths.

• The Supreme Court left standing a lower court's decision that mail-in ballots received after Election Day in Pennsylvania should be counted. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the majority in a 4-4 vote that rejected state Republicans’ appeal of a lower-court ruling affirming that ballots postmarked Nov. 3 and received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6 should be counted. Nearly 1.8 million residents have requested absentee ballots ahead of Nov. 3 and about half have been returned, so far.

• Tonight Mahoning Matters and Stambaugh Auditorium sponsors the latest “Community Matters” livestream event, "The Valley Votes: What to Expect Next," at 6 p.m. The event will be live-streamed on Stambaugh Auditorium's website and YouTube page, the Mahoning Matters Facebook Page and Stambaugh Auditorium's new smartphone and smartTV app, "The Digital Concert Hall."

• The Western Reserve Transit Authority is offering several options to help voters get to the ballot box. WRTA’s 7-Glenwood bus makes hourly stops near the Mahoning County Board of Elections on Oak Hill Avenue. On Election Day, many polling places in Mahoning County and the City of Warren are served by WRTA fixed-route buses. WRTA’s ADA-All Access and Countywide services also will provide options on Election Day and all rides on WRTA buses are free.

• The classic ballet "The Nutcracker," normally the Ballet Western Reserve's holiday offering, will be presented in a new way as "A Nutcracker Drive-In" at the Eastwood Field parking area on the big screen Dec. 18-19 at 7:30 p.m and on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $45 per car and will go on sale on Wednesday at 9 a.m. on the ballet's website.

• Mahoning County Public Health has scheduled flu shot clinics this week: today, 2 to 5 p.m. at Struthers Mauthe Park; and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Mahoning County Public Health in Youngstown.

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 at Mahoning Matters DOT Com.

Jess Hardin

About the Author: Jess Hardin

Jess Hardin is a reporter for Mahoning Matters. She grew up in Pittsburgh and last worked at The Vindicator. Jess graduated from Georgetown University.
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