LIMA — Under Gov. Mike DeWine’s public health advisory system, Allen County has left the state’s watch list and returned to its “Level 3 Public Emergency”.
Under the current system, each county’s level of emergency depends on a series of seven indicators meant to track the preponderance of the coronavirus and its related disease Covid-19 in a community. Allen County meets two of those indicators — new cases per capita, and non-congregate cases — while other indicators, such as hospital admissions, reflect a subtle downward trend.
“Cases have continued to increase in Allen County, but the increase is not as rapid as its been in the past,” DeWine said.
As for the source of ongoing cases, DeWine pointed to large family gatherings and private parties held in the county. Along those same lines, he encouraged Ohioans, especially those in Level 3, or red, counties, to put a hold on attending private gatherings and — if they do — to wear masks and socially distance.
“The point is in casual events, when we’re having fun, this thing can spread,” he said.
Tami Gough, prevention & health promotion services director at Allen County Public Health, said when contact tracers are talking to those who have been diagnosed with covid-19, they often find that large private get-togethers exceeding the 10-person limit are often the cause.
“When we have been asked to take a look at where our cases come from, the majority of ours are coming from holiday gatherings, backyard picnics, more informal things,” Gough said.
When talking about sources of outbreaks, DeWine also gave Mercer County a mention. According to the governor, a large charity benefit with attendees from multiple counties resulted in at least 50 cases.
As for the rest of the state, DeWine said Ohio is doing better and worse as the pandemic progresses. A total of 10 mostly urban counties dropped their red designations, but more rural areas stepped up to a Level 2 Public Emergency from a Level 1. Included on the state’s Level 2, or orange list, are Hardin, Mercer, Auglaize and Putnam counties.
Van Wert County remains at a Level 1 Public Emergency.
DeWine connected the trends to the compliance of facial mask wearing in urban and rural areas. Urban mayors are reporting that more people are wearing facial coverings in their cities, and threat levels have gone down accordingly, the governor pointed out.
“That’s not an accident that those two things are occurring together,” DeWine said.
Other major news that came out of the governor’s Thursday press conference includes a potential new rule for bars. If approved by the Ohio Liquor Control Commission Friday morning, the rule would require that liquor-permitted establishments move last-calls to 10 p.m. Bar goers would then have to 11 p.m. to consume beverages.
Bars could remain open, however, after 11 p.m.
The reason for the change, DeWine said is that bars often lend themselves to large intermingling of crowds late at night as people bar hop. Cutting down on that should, in theory, lessen the probability of an outbreak.
“While this may have been fine during normal times, these are not normal times. We must make a change to curb the social behaviors that will cause this virus to continue to spread,” DeWine said.
If approved, the rule would go into effect Friday night.
Relatedly, DeWine also asked the liquor commission to up the number of allowed alcoholic takeout orders from two to three to provide some extra income for bars that will most likely be hurt economically from the earlier last-call for alcohol.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.