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As a new strain of coronavirus (covid-19) sweeps through the world, stay up-to-date on the latest preparedness plans, school closings, changed polling locations, and more in the Tri-State.

Hamilton County's COVID Cases Still Going In The Wrong Direction

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The number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to climb in Hamilton County, and the number of people hospitalized because of the virus in the region is also increasing. It comes as the county could move to "purple" on the state's coronavirus advisory map when it's released Thursday. That's the highest level.

"The red tide of the virus continues to spread to every corner of Hamilton County," said County Commission President Denise Driehaus. "Not since the spring have we seen numbers like we are now experiencing. What's more, unless we dramatically change our behavior, those numbers are likely to increase."

County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said during a press briefing Wednesday the county is averaging about 210 new cases per day. A month ago, that number was below 100.

"For the last two weeks in a row, we've seen some of our worst days of COVID cases," Kesterman said. "This past weekend we had 335 cases on Saturday and Sunday, which is definitely our worst weekend on record. A lot of activity for our contact tracers."

Kesterman said in the last 21 days there have been 3,896 news cases, 94 hospitalizations and five deaths.

There have been case increases in all age groups in the last week.  The highest increase was in the 18-29 age group, and there were 200 new cases in 70-90 age group.

Last week, the county was added to a watch list and close to becoming "purple" on the state's map by meeting six of the seven indicators.

"While several indicators continue to have some improvement, we are still very close to going purple," Kesterman said. "It's my hope that we've made enough improvement that tomorrow (Thursday) we won't be. But the truth is, it doesn't change anything. We have so much spread right now, we have to work together."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held a conference call Wednesday morning with some elected officials, business leaders and health professionals in the county. 

"Some of the things we talked about on the call were the reasons for the spread, and how we can talk differently, or talk to different groups, to try to tamp down the spread," Driehaus said.

Driehaus said the governor and local leaders are working to make sure the county doesn't have to take drastic measures due to the increase of COVID-19. She said the governor has the authority to make decisions if the county goes "purple." So far, there's no outline of what could happen or could be impacted, because Driehaus believes the governor is hopeful that messaging to the community will get people to change their behavior.

WVXU asked Driehaus if that messaging would be stronger if residents knew specifically what could happen if the county becomes "purple," such as possibly closing schools and businesses.

"So that's not up to me," Driehaus said. "I have no authority over what the governor might do obviously. And it will be up to him to decide when, if, he changes what that designation means."

Right now, the state's website indicates "purple" means "severe exposure and spread, only leave home for supplies and services."

Health officials said they are seeing a lot of COVID spread in small gatherings of families and friends. 

They suggest people are letting their guards down and opening their "bubbles" to people who they had been isolating from earlier in the pandemic. Officials suggest wearing masks for small events, even in your own home, if it involves people you are not around or living with on a daily basis.