The number of coronavirus cases is increasing faster than ever in Hamilton County and Cincinnati, prompting leaders to urge the public to wear masks and not gather in large groups.
“We suspect that people have relaxed,” said Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Denise Driehaus. “The suspicion is that people have let their guard down.”
On June 18, Hamilton County recorded its highest total number of new COVID-19 cases with 132 new cases. Between June 16 and 19, Hamilton County had more than 100 new cases per day. The county only had one day with 100 new cases in the previous four months.
These figures include Cincinnati.
The city of Cincinnati has seen a notable increase in the disease caused by the new coronavirus in the past week, culminating in a 100% jump in new cases in one day.
The city’s dashboard count tracking the new coronavirus shows that COVID-19 cases rose from 45 on Sunday to 97 on Monday, then fell again, but are still high with 40 new cases reported on Tuesday.
That high, 97 in one day, was the newest positive case of COVID-19 the city had seen since it began tracking the disease in March.
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While the increase in testing represents some of the spikes, it does not explain the large increases, said Driehaus and Hamilton County Public Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman.
There is no single reason or event, Kesterman said. There is still no data that the recent major protests have caused the spike, Kesterman said.
Some home meetings in Hamilton County have resulted in multiple COVID-19 infections. There has been no “super spreader” event in Hamilton County so far.
Any gathering of 10 or more people is considered by the health department to be a “mass gathering” and carries more risk, Kesterman said.
“Right in the course of my daily life, I’m seeing this everywhere,” said Kesterman. “I’m watching this when I’m at soccer practice, and I’m passing the baseball fields and there are 100 adults sitting in the stands, drinking beer. That’s a massive gathering and COVID-19 is spreading.”
Cincinnati Health Commissioner Melba Moore said there are many variables involved in the case count, but emphasized: “Put on the mask. Wear the gloves. Wash your hands more often. Keep a distance.”
Three postal codes will get more test sites next week to address a large number of cases: 45240, 45231 and 45238. These include areas of Delhi, Springfield Township and Forest Park.
Hamilton County and the Army National Guard will open six more free trial sites in those zip codes next week.
Many of the cases in ZIP code 45238 may be linked to a nursing home, Kesterman said. The other two Kesterman ZIP codes had no explanation why there is a higher infection rate. He said those cases are younger people and are not due to nursing homes.
“I don’t have a specific reason,” said Kesterman. “We know there are some dense housing situations, which can lead to the spread of COVID-19. So that’s a theory that we have.”
Dr. Maryse Amin, a supervising epidemiologist at the City of Cincinnati Department of Health, said cases have clearly increased from Ohio, and Cincinnati in particular began to reopen after a period of home stay ended in may. And that seems to have had an impact on growing cases. Moore agreed.
“The companies opened on May 15. I think that in people’s minds things relaxed and they thought maybe the pandemic was over.” It isn’t, Moore said.
Even the drop in new cases in Cincinnati Tuesday at 40 was considered high, health officials said, and the board shows it. New COVID-19 diseases in the city began a dramatic increase around June 18 and recovered with an average of approximately 53 new cases in the six-day period through Tuesday.
“We have seen a higher percentage of people who do not wear a mask. We saw large gatherings,” said Moore.
She said Cincinnatians, and others, need to face “a new normal” and “change our behavior.”
But officials recalled: Evidence has also increased, and that’s probably part of the reason for the increasing cases.
Cincinnati recently began providing “pop-up” sites where free tests for COVID-19 are provided to residents in underserved areas. It is a strategy that occurs throughout Ohio.
Over the weekend, the health department administered a pop-up site in Northside. CityLink Center at 800 Bank St. is the last site for testing, which started on Tuesday and continues from 10 am to 3 pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
Amin said a sudden increase could also be due to reports. Some days, he said, the city received a large number of laboratory reports in one day, all of which go to the daily count.
She added that, as an epidemiologist, she considers that it is better to observe trends “for a longer period of time,” although she confirmed that the increase in cases is real.
Price Hill, with zip code 45205, has had a significant increase in cases, Amin said.
But he added that by looking at ZIP code areas, health experts focus on whether cases may be occurring between families or specific sites, such as a workplace, or whether there is more spread in COVID-19 positive cases. She said Price Hill appears to be having an outbreak.
Moore encouraged people to get tested when they can. Some people have no symptoms, she noted, but if they learn that they are or were positive for COVID-19, they might realize that behaviors must change to prevent the spread of the disease.
Deaths from or likely from the disease attacking the respiratory system remained stable during the latest rebound, city data shows. The death toll in Cincinnati stood at 60 in recent days.
The increase in new cases coincides with an increase in COVID-19 cases in southwest Ohio. Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday pointed to specific surges in Hamilton County, as well as Warren, at a press conference, and cases continued to escalate in Hamilton County over the weekend.
Health officials urge people to practice prevention strategies:
- Wash hands frequently.
- Wear a mask in public.
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
- Cover your mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and call your doctor. Symptoms include:
- Dry cough.
- Sudden inability to smell and taste.