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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.

An 'Explosion Of (COVID) Activity' Is Happening In Hamilton County

Ohio State University
As the number of cases continue to rise in Hamilton County, doctors say all ages are included, including 18-29.

With nearly 2,000 more COVID cases since last week, 46 additional hospitalizations and seven more deaths, the state could put Hamilton County on a watch list Thursday or declare it "purple," the highest level on the pandemic advisory map.

During a Wednesday news conference, Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman calls it an "explosion of activity" and says there is no single source of infection - it's just from indoor gatherings with family and friends.

The virus reproductive rate stands at 1.13-1.14. Kesterman says anything more than 1 is hard to contain. He sees the number of hospitalizations in a 14-county region continuing to climb with more people in the intensive care unit.

"We were at the beginning of October at around 25 (ICU admissions). We are now at 75," Kesterman says. "So, our hospitals still have capacity but we're starting to put some stress on that capacity."

Kesterman encourages people to get tested if they have symptoms. He says more than 50 contact tracers are working to identify people who have come in contact with those infected.

Hamilton County Commission President Denise Driehaus says people need to take a pause and rethink their approach to the pandemic.

"In addition to masks, social distancing and hand washing, we need to seriously think about limiting the number of people we come into contact with," she says. "Indoor gatherings - many seem safe because they're with friends and family, but they are now a leading cause of the spread in Hamilton County and throughout the state and throughout the country."

Driehaus says at next week's county COVID news conference she and others will offer up some robust ideas on how to have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.