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County officials react to Level Three alert designation

Lawrence County officials are urging citizens to follow health and safety guidelines in the wake of Thursday’s state-led announcement that the county is considered a higher risk level, pointing to the severity of exposure and spread.
Deanna Holliday, president of the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners, received word from the Gov. Mike DeWine’s office that Lawrence County would be designated at a higher COVID risk level because the county exceeded several health indicators.

“This afternoon, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced in a press conference that Lawrence County has joined a growing list of counties in Ohio designated as a Level 3 Public Health Emergency,” Holliday said in a news release. “In the continuing COVID-19 pandemic in Ohio, a Level 3 is defined as “very high exposure and spread”.

As of Friday, 23 Ohio Counties are designated as Level 3.

Holliday said county elected officials, health officials and emergency leaders have been working very hard to stem the growing number of positive cases by continually pushing out information about how to slow the spread of the disease.

“We in Lawrence County have implored our citizens to follow recommended measures to keep our citizens safe and healthy during the pandemic – including wearing protective masks and practicing proper social distancing,” she said. “To mitigate exposures and spread in the days ahead, we urge people of all ages to embrace and be committed to practicing preventative measures.”

Ohio recently enacted a four-tiered system of County Risk Level Alerts, wherein counties meeting or exceeding certain indicators are designated at risk levels, with the least risk to the highest risk being: Level 1 (yellow – active exposure and spread); 2 (orange – increased exposure and spread); 3 (red – very high exposure and spread); or 4 (purple – severe exposure and spread). Recent increases in COVID positives within the county’s daily assessments met the indicators: New Cases Per Capita; Sustained Increase in New Cases; Proportion of Cases Not Congregate Cases and Sustained Increase in Outpatient Visits.

Georgia Dillon, Health Commissioner stated that the designation as a Risk Level 3 Public Health Emergency is not welcomed news at all.

“We all are in this together,” she said. “People need to accept responsibility for not only their own health, but for the health of their family members or those they might come into contact with on a daily basis.”

Lawrence County has recorded a very steep and steady increase in positive cases in the past three weeks, according to Dillon.

“We have seen outbreaks as a result of organized events such as weddings, family events, social gatherings in bars, church events and at other non-congregate settings,” she said. “Our numbers of positive cases show that we need to make some better health and safety choices in Lawrence County. We want to avoid moving up to the highest risk level.”

Increases in COVID cases negatively impacts and challenges our Lawrence County community in many different ways, Holiday said.

“From individuals and families being ill, to communities cancelling scheduled events, to schools trying to navigate through the required educational process, to increased risks for our emergency first responders, to governments on all levels having to adjust the way they serve the people, this pandemic has certainly taken a toll on many areas of life,” she said. “We want Lawrence County to stay open for business, and the only way we can successfully accomplish this is to renew our daily commitment to keep ourselves and our families healthy and safe. We have already experienced the negative effects of a shut-down, and we do not want to go through that experience ever again.”