YOUNGSTOWN — After numerous phone calls, emails and a public records request, Mahoning Matters finally got ZIP code breakdowns for coronavirus cases in one Valley county.
The Columbiana County Health District shared its data just in time for what's shaping up to be a surge in state-wide cases.
Since mid-May, the number of new COVID-19 cases each week has steadily decreased from 3,068 new cases the week of May 17 to 2,162 new cases the week of June 6.
That trend reversed sharply last week — the week of June 13 — when Ohio saw an increase of 2,874 cases in one week, and the state is poised to surpass that number this week. In the last four days, the state has seen an increase of 2,301 confirmed cases.
New hospitalizations reported Tuesday comprised the largest single-day spike since May 29.
Is it a reflection of increased testing throughout the state? Or is this the second wave we've been hearing about?
If you ask Gov. Mike DeWine, it's a little bit of both.
Following his remarks at Lordstown Motors Corp.'s Hallock Young Road plant on Wednesday, the governor attributed the past week's consistently spiking daily case totals — also seen in more than half of U.S. states — to the weather.
"It's summer. People are out. They're moving around more," he said. "If you want the economy to continue to move; want people to get back to work, the No. 1 most important thing you can do is to keep this virus from spreading."
But it's unlikely his response to a surge would be the type of shutdown we saw in March.
"If we have a spike ... it won't matter what order I issue, or the health director," he continued. "People are going to pull back, and that's going to be very detrimental to the economy."
For Mercy Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Jim Kravec, in looking for a spike, "The one that is most meaningful to me is hospitalizations."
While Tuesday saw the largest single-day spike in hospitalizations since May 29, Kravec is keeping his eye on regional data and trends.
DeWine noted Wednesday that while case totals in the Mahoning Valley region have remained "steady," case totals in parts of southwest Ohio have surged. In a briefing last week, he explained the state's response to these kinds of surges: pop-up testing and increased National Guard presence.
DeWine reiterated state goals to increase virus testing capacity, which currently sits at between 13,000 and 14,000 tests per day. In April, DeWine said the state's goal was to reach 22,000 tests per day by the end of May.
Pop-up testing sites coordinated by the Ohio National Guard in other parts of the state will be headed to the Valley, the governor said.
"It’s been so far so good with stable numbers here," said Kravec. "That’s because we’re still following the guidelines."
But, he added, "COVID is still here. People are still dying from it."
DeWine specifically addressed Mahoning Valley residents Wednesday, entreating people to continue practicing virus spread prevention.
"Continue to do what you've been doing. When you're out in public, wear a mask," DeWine said. "If you go into a store, everyone who's in the store working there is wearing a mask. If you do the same, you're being courteous to them and you're also helping job creation in the state and helping our economy move forward."
As testing continues to ramp up in the Valley, access to information about cases has also increased. On Wednesday, Columbiana County Health District provided all Valley media with breakdowns of cases by ZIP code as a response to a Freedom of Information Act request Mahoning Matters made last week.
Of the 29 ZIP codes in the county, 10 have no cases. Lisbon's ZIP code 44432 — home to the Federal Correctional Institution at Elkton — has the largest number of cases with 614, followed by Salem's ZIP code 44460, which has 178 cases.
Salem is home to two nursing homes that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks, Salem North Healthcare Center and Salem West Healthcare Center. Salem North has had 61 cases, and Salem West has had 33 cases, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.
Twelve ZIP codes have less than 10 cases each.
We are waiting on the same data from Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Reporter Justin Dennis contributed to this story.