Hamilton County public health officials are reminding people not to relax when it comes to taking precautions against the spread of the coronavirus. A spike in positive COVID-19 cases identified last week continues to rise.
"Hamilton County is seeing its biggest spike in new cases since the COVID-19 crisis began," Hamilton County Commission President Denise Driehaus said during a Wednesday briefing. "Today we have 4,098 positive cases of COVID-19 in Hamilton County, 665 hospitalizations and 188 deaths."
She says this spike in positive cases is an indicator of an expected surge in hospitalizations and deaths, too.
Some of the increase can be attributed to access to more testing, "however, the recent spike is too large to be explained by this alone," Driehaus said.
African Americans continue to see disproportionately higher numbers, as does the Hispanic community. The number of people in the 20-30 age range testing positive is on the rise.
Of the three zip codes with the highest numbers, one is being attributed to an increase in testing and therefore positive results at a nursing home in the 45238 zip code. It's unclear why the other two zip codes - 45231 and 45240 - are so high. One possible theory, according to Interim Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman, is they both have a large number of high density housing units.
Community contact is the biggest way the disease is spread. Health officials worry the increases may be due to people becoming tired of, or lax about, COVID-19 precautions. They reiterated the importance of wearing a mask or face covering, hand washing and physical distancing.
The county says it currently has no data related to protests and the increase in positive cases. When asked about the increase in cases being tied to recent protests, Kesterman pointed out, as he has several times before, that a large gathering is defined as any place people are gathering in groups of more than 10, like baseball games, family gatherings, grocery shopping and other public events where people are choosing not to wear masks.
Testing sites are becoming increasing available and the county is directing pop-up testing centers to be staffed by the National Guard to locations in 45231 and 45240 specifically. Driehaus expects those will be open shortly. Additional test sites funded by CARES Act dollars will come online county-wide in the coming 30 days, she said.
As positive cases increase, hospitalizations and deaths are expected to follow. Christa Hyson with the Health Collaborative says local hospitals are currently well stocked with PPE and have available beds and ventilators. However, she points out this could change as numbers spike.