Trumbull Ranks Red in New COVID-19 Rating

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Trumbull County is among seven Ohio counties that are at the second-highest threat level for coronavirus identified in a new four-tier public health advisory that Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled Thursday.

DeWine introduced the color-coded Ohio Public Health Advisory System and outlined guidance for schools to open this fall during a briefing steamed on the Ohio Channel website.

“We are at yet another critical juncture in the battle against coronavirus,” DeWine said. The virus is “spreading again with a vengeance” across the country as well as parts of Ohio.

The system, which rates counties on four levels from yellow, the lowest, to purple, the highest, was announced as Ohio is experiencing an increase in coronavirus cases, on Wednesday reporting 1,076 new cases.

According to data as of Tuesday, Trumbull County met four of the seven indicators on which counties are being rated — new cases per capita, proportion of cases not from congregate settings, sustained increase in emergency room visits and sustained increase in outpatient visits – putting it at Level 3.

“If your county is red, that should be a real wake-up call that something’s going on and it’s not good,” DeWine said. Recommendations for counties in the red rating include wearing masks “for sure” when going out, considering only necessary travel outside the house and limiting attendance at gatherings of any kind.

Mahoning County is one of 28 counties at the orange level, reporting two to three indicators, indicating increased exposure and spread and calling for a “high degree of caution” to be exercised.

Other criteria the counties are evaluated on include sustained increases in new cases, sustained increases in new COVID-19 hospital admissions and intensive care unit bed occupancy. Measures still under development are contract tracing, tests per capita and percent positivity.

In this phase of the pandemic, saving lives remains “top priority,” but residents need to learn to live with the virus, DeWine said.

“We cannot move backward. Ohioans have come too far in this fight now to cede ground to this virus,” he said.

“We have to be smart about it. We have to be careful about it. We have to understand that it’s important for health reasons and important for all kinds of reasons that our economy move forward and we not go back in regard to our economy either. Doing both — keeping the economy moving and keeping safe — these are consistent and one is certainly dependent upon the other.”

No counties are at the highest level, purple, although Franklin County is close and is being monitored, DeWine said.

That Trumbull County’s numbers have climbed is no secret, remarked Frank Migliozzi, health commissioner for Trumbull County Combined Health District.

The rating calls attention to the “cavalier approach” individuals are taking to comply with the risk reduction measures that his department publicizes daily, Migliozzi continued. People need to limit the activities they’re participating in, avoid large gatherings and stay home when they’re ill, as well as keeping their hands clean and sanitized. Businesses need to keep high-touch surfaces sanitized as well.

“Social distancing and the use of masks really is right now our most effective way of limiting the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “Until there is an effective vaccine and a more effective treatment, those are the things that are going to slow the spread.”

James Pantalone, Howland Township fire chief and director of the Trumbull County Emergency Operations Center, said the county’s risk level is concerning. If the governor’s current safety risk level criteria were applied when this first started, Trumbull County would have operated through purple for 60-plus days.

“Going into the weekend, people may want to reconsider what they had planned, especially if they’re gathering large numbers and some of those things,” Pantalone said.

“We did a very positive thing in a short period of time by flattening the curve and putting a lid on this thing and now we have to again. We can, but it’s going to be hard,” he said. “Everybody was ready to be done with it but we have to be diligent to stay on top of this. We’re feeling the pain of a little bit of a looser public society and it’s a health risk now.”

A committee of local decision-makers is being assembled to review the data – including local officials and EOC representatives – to put together educational messages and determine where Trumbull goes from here, Migliozzi.

Mahoning County Public Health is learning more about what the color-coded system means for counties and their responses based on each level, a spokesman said.

Lisa Solley contributed to this article.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.