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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.

Ohio Counties Avoid Turning 'Purple,' But DeWine Cautions There Is 'No Place To Hide'

mike dewine
Andy Chow
Ohio Statehouse News Bureau

Despite much speculation, not a single Ohio county turned "purple" on the state's coronavirus health advisory scale Thursday, however, the previous day the state saw its highest single-day increase in cases ever - 3,590. 

As of Thursday, cases in the state totaled 208,937; deaths 5,275; hospitalizations 18,800; and ICU admissions 3,816. Eighty-three of Ohio's 88 counties are considered "high incidence." Putnam, Auglaize and Holmes counties top the list of spread. 

"There is no place to hide," Gov. Mike DeWine said during his briefing. "Every county is red or orange. Since there is no place to hide, all of us have to come together to fight this enemy."

DeWine said the tools to do so are "simple": wear a mask, wash hands and make sure gathering places have good ventilation.

"We have got to get back to basics," he said.

He also called on leaders of each community to create a COVID defense team that includes county health commissioners, mayors and hospital, business and religious leaders.

"A major part of their job will be to explain to people in their community exactly what is going on and what steps must be taken to stop the advance of this virus," he added.

The 'Bright' Spot

No county went purple, which DeWine called "the one bright spot."

"No counties are on our watch list, however, this virus is spreading significantly," he said, pointing to Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties specifically for evidence of "disturbing" trends.

While Hamilton County avoided moving to the highest level on the state's coronavirus advisory map, County Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas said during a Thursday commission meeting that local officials need to do more to draw attention to the pandemic.

"After eight months we need a new beginning; it's not working," Summerow Dumas said. "People are not listening, they're not thinking no matter how many people pass away or get sick. They're not taking it seriously."

The commission will discuss the issue during next Thursday's regular session.

"I'm aware that we can't mandate anything; I'm aware that the governor needs to do it," Summerow Dumas said. "But we need to give a stronger message than what even the president can do. (Commission) President (Denise) Driehaus, she's done all she can do. But it needs to be expanded."

Summerow Dumas wants to use federal CARES Act funding for a marketing campaign trying to convince more people to wear masks and social distance. 

Challenges Will Continue

Richard Lofgren, MD, is president and CEO of UC Health in Hamilton County. He said the county has seen a "decisive" increase in cases. "We did a great job as Ohioans suppressing the virus through the summer and into the early part of the fall," he said. Now, "cases have nearly been doubling every two weeks and one of the things that's really notable is this spread is diffuse. There is no one particular area. What we used to see was in the highly dense urban core; that's not the case anymore."

Lofgren said we are "social animals" and are "letting our guard down." He said the challenges will continue as we enter the holiday season.

Jennifer Merritt brings 20 years of "tra-digital" journalism experience to WVXU.