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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Hamilton County Reports Higher COVID-19 Cases Ahead Of Long Holiday Weekend

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Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said colleges opening up and people traveling for the long Labor Day weekend increases the risk for community spread.

For the first time in more than a month, Hamilton County health officials are reporting an increase in positive COVID-19 cases.
Since last Wednesday, there have been 622 new positive COVID cases reported in the county. Last week, that number was 404 new cases.

The county did report a decline in new hospitalizations and deaths.

The county's reproductive number is now 1.22. It had been below 1 for the last five weeks, meaning COVID-19 was not actively spreading in the county. A number higher than 1 indicates more community spread.

"We know that there's a lot happening in the county; particularly we know a lot of schools and colleges are starting to open up," said Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman. "And with these things opening back up, it does increase the opportunity for COVID spread within our community."

Greg Kesterman said they're particularly concerned about the higher numbers in the 18 to 24 age group.

"We know that the positivity rate in this group was around 6% positive and now this group is much closer to 20%," Kesterman said. "The number of tests has not increased either, we're seeing this group get between 150 and 200 tests per day within the region, which means between 30 and 40 new people with COVID-19 are coming out of this age demographic."

Kesterman, like state and national officials, is urging people to use caution as they celebrate the Labor Day holiday this weekend.  Again, he said that's especially important for the 18 to 24 age group.

"If you're bringing your college kids home for a party with grandma and grandpa, and mom and dad and others, it's time to really remember social distancing is important," Kesterman said. "It's also important if you're one of those college students, and has taken a few more chances, that you step up and be the responsible adult and don't spread it to your family. We want to make sure that we are safely able to celebrate Labor Day this weekend but not cause an increase in COVID-19 cases."

Hamilton County Commission President Denise Driehaus said people can still get together, it's just a matter of how they get together.

"You know you've got to wear the mask, you've got to stay distanced," Driehaus said. "If you're drinking a beer or eating a burger, that's fine, you have to take off your mask, but don't do it near someone that's not what I call your bubble, not an immediate family member that you live with."

Right now, the county is "orange" on the Ohio Health Department's advisory map. That could increase to the "red" level Thursday when an updated map is released because of an increasing number of COVID cases.