LIMA — Allen County is now the sole county in Ohio approaching a Level 4 Public Health Emergency, the highest rating in Ohio’s new public health alert system indicating rapid spread of COVID-19.
Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday implored Allen County residents to cooperate with contact tracers and local health officials as new cases are confirmed.
In the last 14 days alone, Allen County has seen 110 new COVID-19 cases. That’s 23% of the total number of cases reported here since the start of the pandemic.
The county’s emergency alert profile shows that more people here are now seeking medical care at emergency departments and outpatient clinics for COVID-19-related symptoms. And more than 94% of new cases in recent weeks are coming from outside of congregate settings, such as nursing homes and jails, suggesting widespread transmission within the broader community.
Allen County has now triggered six of the state’s seven emergency indicators, prompting health officials to encourage residents and visitors here to limit activities as much as possible.
Should Allen County continue hitting those six indicators for two consecutive weeks, it will enter a Level 4 Public Health Emergency, during which travel outside the home is discouraged for all but essential needs.
Family trips to out-of-state coronavirus hotspots are a major source of new infections, as are pool parties and large private gatherings. DeWine said one of these trips alone resulted in 15 confirmed cases that health officials know about.
Local public health officials say they are encountering resistance from some residents who have been asked to quarantine or isolate after testing positive or being exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, which threatens to derail efforts to keep the virus from spreading even further in the community.
Hardin County has also moved into a Level 3 Emergency, as new cases are rising and more people seek medical care for COVID-19-related symptoms. As with Allen County, most of these new cases are not coming from congregate settings.
What are the indicators?
• Number of new cases per capita in a two-week period, which allows the state to compare outbreaks in small and large counties by factoring population size. This is triggered when a county reports more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 14 days;
• Number of emergency department visits for COVID-19-related symptoms reported in last five days;
• Number of outpatient visits for COVID-19-related symptoms reported in last five days;
• Sustained increase in new cases for at least five days;
• At least 50% of new cases are coming from places other than congregate settings (think: jails or nursing homes) in at least one of the last three weeks, which suggests community spread rather than an isolated outbreak;
• Increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations for at least five days in the last three weeks;
• ICU bed capacity.
Allen County has hit all but one of those indicators: ICU bed occupancy, which is measured on a regional rather than county-only basis.
Taken together, the emergency alert system intends to show the trajectory of the disease in individual counties before hospital systems are overwhelmed.
While Allen County is still on a Level 3 alert, the situation could change quickly.
“County health officials are working very hard to contain the virus, but I’d say to my friends in Allen County they really, really need your help,” DeWine said. “When they contact you, please cooperate. Give them the information they need.”
Local health officials are encouraging residents to take preventative measures to slow the spread of coronavirus — and ultimately avoid a Level 4 Emergency, which could complicate plans to resume in-person schooling this fall — by social distancing, wearing face coverings, avoiding travel to COVID-19 hotspots and avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people.