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Richland County one of 11 Ohio counties placed on COVID watch list

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Richland County has triggered enough indicators to be placed on the Ohio Department of Health watch list, according to a Wednesday press release.

MANSFIELD -- Richland County will be one of 11 counties placed on the state's "watch list" later this week, the Ohio Department of Health announced Wednesday.

“The ongoing high prevalence of the virus throughout Ohio, as reflected in today’s alert system update, is very dangerous as we move into the holidays,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “We have heard again this week from hospital administrators and front-line staff about how they are overwhelmed. It is imperative that Ohioans take the virus and this current situation seriously.”

Wednesday’s announcement also stated that Montgomery, Lake and Lorain counties have moved to level four of the state advisory system. Franklin County remains “purple” for the second week. The other ten counties on the watch list include Adams, Clermont, Hamilton, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Warren and Wood.

These counties meet enough indicators to be considered at risk for level 4 or purple in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System because of the sustained impact on healthcare utilization. However, the system requires them to meet these criteria for two weeks in a row to ensure a consistent trend in the data before they become purple.

Richland County triggered just four indicators in last week's update -- new cases per capita, non-congregate case rate, emergency department visits and outpatient visits. 

The ODH has not yet announced which indicators Richland County met to be placed on the watch list this week. The system is typically updated on Thursdays, but numbers will be reported on Friday this week due to the holiday, according to press secretary Melanie Amato.

Reed Richmond, communications specialist for Richland Public Health, called on residents to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19 before it creates a burden on local medical facilities.

"This is a turning point for Richland County in the fight against the spread of coronavirus in our communities," said Reed Richmond, communications specialist for Richland Public Health. "Everyone needs to step up and do the right thing: wear your mask if you have to go out, avoid gatherings of any size, and wash hands frequently. It's long past time to step up and protect our most vulnerable citizens and do what we can to keep the health services and emergency responders in Richland County from being overwhelmed."

Hospital data indicates that bed capacity in Richland County is trending steadily downward, according to Eye on Ohio's Lucia Walinchus. 

"In April, we stopped all elective procedures. That's where you see the big spike in staffed beds available. Then they resume in June," explained Walinchus, who won access to Ohio Department of Health records after a seven month legal battle.

"OhioHealth is not an exception to the challenges that Governor DeWine mentioned. The hospitals within the OhioHealth system, including those locally, are caring for more patients," Gavin Baumgardner, Vice President of Medical Affairs for OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital and OhioHealth Shelby Hospital, told Richland Source last week. "While the return of all clinical services and associate quarantines have created a strain on our labor resources, we will make sure it does not compromise patient care."

"As our non-COVID census has stayed high and our COVID-19 patient population has increased, we activated our surge plan in an effort to care for more COVID-19 patients at Mansfield Hospital," he added. "We anticipate that we will experience another jump in cases and another surge in hospitalizations due to holiday gatherings. As we head further into winter, flu cases tend to be on the rise. With that in mind, we have spent months preparing for additional surges in patients."

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@scncctwl.com