LIMA — Allen County is now on a Level 3 Public Emergency, meaning people must wear facemasks when they’re in public starting at 6 p.m. Friday, July 17.
“Allen County has reached a tipping point regarding this virus, hitting a majority of our indicators,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said during his press conference.
Allen County reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, topping 400, with the numbers reported by 2 p.m. Thursday. There were no new deaths attributed to the coronavirus.
Why was Level 3 declared?
Allen County was at a Level 2 Emergency last week, but the county has reported 76 new COVID-19 cases — a 20% increase — within the last two weeks, according to the state’s profile of the county.
Allen County saw its average daily case count increase from three cases per day on June 23 to 8 cases per day by July 8.
Visits to the emergency department for COVID-19 medical care rose from an average of 0.8 visits per day to nearly four visits per day from June 23 to July 11, while COVID-19-related outpatient visits grew from two per day to 11.5 per day and more than 88% of confirmed cases are not in congregate settings like nursing homes — all indicators of widespread community transmission.
A Level 3 Emergency takes effect when a county triggers four or five community transmission indicators, including a rise in new cases per capita, non-congregate cases, emergency room visits, outpatient visits, hospital admissions, ICU bed occupancy or new cases.
Allen County triggered five of the seven indicators.
Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday said that the surge in new cases here is not simply attributable to the increase in testing, as Allen County has also observed an increase in hospitalizations, COVID-19-related outpatient visits and ER admissions.
DeWine said Allen County officials have noted isolated outbreaks at a restaurant and workplace, although he did not specify which locations have reported those outbreaks.
Allen County Public Health contact tracers attributed the surge in new COVID-19 cases to a combination of large family gatherings, travel to high-risk parts of the country and non-compliance with quarantine or isolation guidelines sent to residents who have tested positive or had close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
How will it be enforced?
As of 6 p.m. Friday, Allen County residents and visitors are required to wear a mask or face covering while inside any indoor location that is not a residence; when outdoors and unable to consistently maintain six feet of space between themselves and anyone who is not a member of their household; and while waiting for, riding, driving or operating public transportation, including taxi, private care service or ride shares.
Children under the age of 10 will not be required to wear a face covering, nor will other minors who cannot safely wear a mask.
There are other exceptions, including those already in effect for workplaces and for individuals who are advised not to wear a mask by their physician.
But the Allen County Sheriff’s Office has already said it will not enforce the mask mandate when it takes effect on Friday because, according to a Facebook post from the department, the dispatch center and 9-1-1 lines are designed for emergencies only.
“Please do not call 9-1-1 or other office numbers to report potential violations of this health order,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Thursday. “Should you have a concern regarding community compliance with this order, please contact the Allen County Department of Health at 419-228-4457.”
Levels in area, state rise
Mercer, Putnam and Van Wert counties remain in Level 2. Auglaize, Hancock, Hardin, Logan and Shelby counties remain in Level 1.
The state had 19 counties at Level 3, up from 12 counties last week. DeWine said 60% of Ohio’s population is now at a Level 3, requiring masks. DeWine also announced the state will update levels each Thursday.
Last week, four local counties were at Level 2 (Allen, Mercer, Putnam and Van Wert counties), with the remainder on Level 1.