CEDARVILLE — Ohioans aged 18 to 22 account for between 35 and 40 percent of all coronavirus cases among Ohioans 29 years and younger, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
That's based on data from the last two weeks. The week prior, 18- to 22-year-olds accounted for 18 percent of those cases.
Though the Mahoning County Public Health dashboard doesn't present ages of local coronavirus cases the same way, the average age of coronavirus cases can be seen trending downward since May 5, when it was about 82 years old.
With the exception of an Aug. 23 report, the average age of county coronavirus cases hasn't surpassed 60 years old since June 19. In the past several weeks, the youngest reported average was 38 years old on Aug. 30; the oldest was 67 years old on Aug. 23.
Ohioans aged 29 years or younger account for just under a third of the total 127,112 confirmed and probable cases to date reported Thursday by the state. The median age of coronavirus patients statewide was 41 years old as of Thursday.
All this comes as the state heads into Labor Day weekend and as universities have reopened.
"Please be careful. What we do this weekend will really determine what our fall is going to look like," Gov. Mike DeWine said during a Thursday briefing on the state's coronavirus response.
Wastewater treatment plants in Youngstown and Warren are part of the state's new Wastewater Monitoring Network, which tests sewage samples for copies of the SARS-CoV-2 gene and can forecast waves of new infections between three to seven days before new cases or hospitalizations are reported.
DeWine on Thursday said there are 22 sites across the state, with more to come.
Coronavirus testing lags as an indicator of virus spread in communities because it's typically only done on those who are already experiencing symptoms.
Since infected humans can excrete traces of the virus in their feces before experiencing symptoms, monitoring of raw wastewater "can provide an early warning of disease increase in a community," according to the network's map, published Thursday on the state's coronavirus website.
The Youngstown Wastewater Treatment Plant serves a population of more than 260,000 people in a 65-square-mile area stretching from the northern side of Boardman; to eastern side of Austintown; to the Sodom neighborhood in Trumbull County; to the state line, excluding the Struthers and Campbell area, according to the map.
Since virus copies can also be excreted up to 30 days after an infection, the data may also lag behind decreases in community spread. So, experts are looking for upward trends that jump in orders of magnitude — an increase of 10 times or 100 times more from the previous report — to predict a surge in new coronavirus cases.
For instance, Youngstown's plant detected 35,000 "million gene copies" (MGC), or 35 billion copies, in sampling collected Aug. 9. The very next sampling collected Aug. 15 had 380,000 MGC, or 380 billion copies.
Testing of the plant's most recent Aug. 23 sampling found about 150,000 MGC, or 150 billion copies.
Data for Warren's wastewater treatment plant were not available Tuesday.
Case reporting at schools
DeWine also announced a new order on case-reporting guidelines for K-12 schools in the state, which will take effect Tuesday.
- Parents or guardians of students should report positive test results or clinical diagnoses to school districts within 24 hours of receiving them;
- Within 24 hours of receiving those notices, school districts should deliver written notifications of those cases to parents or guardians of students;
- That data will be publicly available on the state's coronavirus website, and will be broken down by school students and staff.
Each school district must also name a COVID-19 coordinator charged with reporting the case information.
"We understand there's always this balance between right-to-know and privacy," DeWine said. "We do not plan for protected health information to be released ... but releasing as much as we can is very important.
"Please remember that if a school has positive cases among their students or staff, it does not mean the school did anything wrong," the governor continued. "Schools cannot control spread in the community so it is important to practice safety measures not only in the classroom but also when you're out in the community."
DeWine later clarified the order is not intended for school districts that plan to be entirely remote this year.
Here are other recent coronavirus-related developments in the state and region:
• According to the latest figures Thursday from the Ohio Department of Health, the state is reporting 120,471 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. There have been 2,874 confirmed or suspected cases in Mahoning County; 1,768 in Trumbull County; and 1,849 in Columbiana County.
• Statewide, there have been 3,939 confirmed deaths, including 271 in Mahoning County; 125 in Trumbull; and 66 in Columbiana. Mahoning County's 271 reported COVID-19 deaths on Thursday was fifth among Ohio's 88 counties; Cuyahoga County had the most with 591.
• In nearby counties: Stark, 2,395 cases and 155 deaths; Portage, 888 cases and 65 deaths; and Ashtabula, 616 cases and 46 deaths.
• Mahoning and Trumbull counties were both downgraded to the state's level 1 "yellow" alert phase on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System map this week. Both counties now meet only one of the state's seven risk indicators — more than half of the cases reported in at least one of the last three weeks came from outside a congregate setting such as a long-term care or correctional facility.
• Columbiana County remains at the level 2 "orange" alert phase, as it meets that indicator and two others: the county has more than 50 cases new per 100,000 people reported in the last two weeks and has seen a five-day increasing trend of outpatient visits for COVID-19 in the last three weeks.
• Southern Park Mall will host drive-in style concerts featuring local artists. Cars will be directed to a safely distanced parking spot. Guests can tune their radios for audio streaming. On Thursday, the concert is RDNA with No Funk No Justice. Gates open at 6 p.m.; concert begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 per car.
• Individuals, companies and organizations can purchase livestock at the Canfield Junior Fair on Friday to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley. The 174th Canfield Fair was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and was limited to the Junior Fair.
• Youngstown City School District's food distribution will expand to nondistrict students next week on Tuesday because of the Labor Day holiday. The distribution will be curbside at these schools: Bunn, Harding, MLK, Rogers, Williamson, Wilson, Chaney and East. Five breakfasts and five lunches per student will be given out from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Cleveland leads the state and ranks in the top five nationally for job losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recently released study by Cleveland State University. The area ranks fourth out of the nation’s 40 largest metro areas in total job losses from July 2019 to July 2020, trailing only New York, Las Vegas and Boston.
• For the second time in a month, new unemployment claims fell below the million mark in the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly jobless report. 881,000 workers filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending Aug. 29.
• In Ohio, 18,719 workers filed initial unemployment claims last week, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
• According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Thursday, there are 136,771 COVID-19 cases in the state which have led to 7,732 deaths. The state said the recovery rate is 82 percent. There have been 560 confirmed or suspected cases in Mercer County and 13 deaths; 468 cases in Lawrence County and 18 deaths.
• House lawmakers in Pennsylvania advanced election reforms Wednesday with little bipartisan support. The application deadline for mail-in and absentee ballots would move from seven to 15 days before the election. The bill also effectively bans drop boxes, mandating voters deliver their ballots to polling places, county election offices or courthouse on Nov. 3.