OTTAWA — Putnam County, which once claimed one of the highest coronavirus vaccination rates in Ohio, now claims one of the state’s highest coronavirus test positivity rates, according to a new county-level test positivity measure released by the Ohio Department of Health on Monday.
Roughly 10% of coronavirus tests performed in Putnam County in the two weeks prior to April 20 were positive for COVID-19, the fourth highest positivity rate in Ohio, behind Lawrence and Jefferson counties and tied with Lucas County.
Monday’s report is the first time Ohio has made county-level test positivity data available to the public.
The findings show a slightly different picture than Ohio’s ranking of counties with the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases, suggesting that the virus is circulating at higher than reported levels in counties with high test positivity rates.
Putnam County, for example, ranked 30th in Ohio last Thursday for reported COVID-19 activity in the same two-week period.
Allen County reported the 11th highest test positivity rate in Ohio, despite ranking 47th in the state for reported coronavirus cases.
And Mercer County reported the fifth highest test positivity rate in Ohio, even though reported coronavirus cases in Mercer County ranked 45th out of the 88 counties.
Tami Gough, public information officer for Allen County Public Health, said it could take several weeks for the test positivity data to show discernable trends.
“It’s hard to make any attributions to what exactly this data means until we have more of a baseline comparing ourselves to ourselves,” Gough said, referring to positivity rates from previous weeks.
Ohio’s test positivity rate as of Saturday was down to 3.5% statewide, as nearly 40% of the state’s population has been partially or fully vaccinated.
But immunization rates in Northwest Ohio have started slowing, which puts those counties at risk for continued infections. And many of the new cases reported in April were found in adults younger than 40 years-old, as young adults were the last group to become eligible for vaccinations.
As of Monday, less than 30% of Allen County residents and 36% of Putnam County residents are partially or fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. In Auglaize County, only 28% of residents have received at least one coronavirus shot. And in Mercer and Hardin counties, that rate is even lower at 27%.