COLUMBUS — As Ohio reports an increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday clarified that the trend is not simply attributable to the increase in COVID-19 testing, now available to Ohioans regardless of whether they show symptoms.
The state reported 737 new cases on Monday, down from last Friday’s high of 987 but still well above the 21-day case average of 581. And last week was the first time in nearly two months that Ohio reported an increase in COVID-19 positive hospitalizations, DeWine said.
About 5% of the 15,700 coronavirus tests conducted in Ohio on June 27 came back positive, according to the Ohio Department of Health, a trend that has held steady since mid-June despite the increased accessibility of testing.
While DeWine said a 5% positivity rate is “not horrible,” the goal is to see the positivity rate decrease as more tests are administered.
“That would be the normal thing you would expect because you’re not just testing people who have symptoms, but also people who have no symptoms,” he said. “That is not what happened … and that would indicate that we are seeing an increase of COVID-19 in Ohio.”
Ohio’s positivity rate peaked on April 29 at 37%, but the state only conducted 1,300 tests that day, according to Ohio Department of Health data. As testing increased in May and June, the state’s positivity rate fell and held steady between 4% and 6%.
Tami Gough, director of prevention and health promotion services for Allen County Public Health, said a decrease in the test positivity rate now would suggest that testing the very sick, as Ohio was doing until recently, skewed the positivity rate higher.
But “because the positivity rates have not decreased,” she said, “that tells us that community spread is still happening, and it appears to be happening on an uptick again.”
The increase in COVID-19 is most acute in the Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton areas.
DeWine said hospitals have not reached 80% occupancy anywhere in Ohio — a concerning threshold for hospitals — but he warned that the situation can quickly change, as hospitalizations are a lagging indicator for the disease.