Governor Unveils County-Level COVID-19 Alert System to Combat Climbing Case Numbers

Gov. Mike DeWine today released a county-based Public Advisory Alert System to provide local health districts, public officials and residents the data they need to combat flare ups of COVID-19.

The governor said his goals are "learning to live, learning to function and keep the economy open" as Ohio sees significant increases in select areas of the state.

A four-level, color-coded alert system – yellow, orange, red and purple – will categorize the COVID-19 factors in each of Ohio’s 88 counties based on seven data points:
  • Population case rate
  • Sustained increase new cases
  • Proportion of cases not in a congregate setting
  • Sustained increase in ER visits for COVID-like illness
  • Sustained increase outpatient visits for COVID-like illness
  • Sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions
  • ICU bed occupancy
Guidance and response recommendations for each alert level are provided by the Ohio Department of Health and designed for implementation by local health districts to “inform, empower and engage” local communities to better respond, the governor said. “It’s about buy-in.” Statewide mandates, he said, are not likely to work.

The alert levels will be updated each Wednesday and shared with the public during DeWine's Thursday briefings.

The first rankings, based on June 30 data, show:
  • Level 1 - Yellow, 0-1 problem indicators: 53 counties
  • Level 2 - Orange, 2-3 problem indicators: 28 counties
  • Level 3 - Red, 4-5 problem indicators: 7 counties, including Butler, Franklin, Montgomery, Hamilton, Cuyahoga, Trumbull and Huron counties
DeWine said Franklin County is on the watch list as it could be moving toward level 4 alert status, or purple. COVID-19 cases in Franklin County have been “explosive” in recent days, DeWine said.

The state's website includes profiles of the Level 3 counties detailing the indicators triggered and a narrative on suspected causes. 

Andrew Ginther, mayor of Columbus, the largest city in Franklin County, today announced a mask mandate. DeWine cited Ginther's order and the mask order of Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley as examples of the local response he wants to the alert system to generate.

During today's 2-hour briefing, DeWine also released guidance for the reopening of Ohio schools. Like the alert system, the guidance provides recommendations and procedures, but leaves key elements to local school boards to adopt.

The governor said all existing health orders remain in effect as Ohio heads into the holiday weekend.