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DeWine: Next few weeks most critical

State alert map continues to redden

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on Thursday that the next several weeks will be “the toughest yet” for the state in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re heading into the biggest holiday season on our calendar, while riding the biggest wave of COVID-19 that we’ve had so far,” DeWine said at his news conference on Thursday. “What each of us does in the next 21 days will set us on the path — good or bad — for the next year.”

DeWine said a safe and effective vaccine is in sight, but, in the meantime, the state can not afford “to further overwhelm our hospitals and healthcare providers with a holiday tsunami” and that the Ohioans need to take responsibility for the next 21 days to keep the virus from spreading.

DeWine, as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, has been advising against large gatherings over the Christmas season.

“But look, I get it,” DeWine said. “None of this is easy. This is very hard on everyone. It is human nature. It’s in our DNA to want to be together with one another. All of this has taken a terrible toll, not just on our physical health, but on our emotional wellbeing.”

DeWine said the Ohio Department of Health is extending the 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew order until Jan. 2, 2021.

“We believe the curfew, along with mask wearing, has had an impact and the next 21 days are extremely critical,” DeWine said. “We must all do everything we can to slow down the virus.”

The department also released its update of the map for its COVID-19 alert system on Thursday, with four counties — Medina, Portage, Stark and Summit — continuing at the highest alert designation, Purple Level Four.

While this was a decrease from the amount of Level Four Counties last week, when the total stood at seven, overall, the map showed an increase in severity, with four more counties moving from Level Two Orange to Level Three Red.

At this point, only five of the state’s 88 counties — Gallia, Vinton, Hocking and Wyandot and Monroe are at Level Two, while none are at the lowest designation on the system, Yellow Level One.

The system, compiled by the Ohio Department of Health, is determined by seven data indicators — New cases per capita, sustained increase in new cases, proportion of cases not congregate cases, sustained increase in emergency room visits, sustained increase in outpatient visits and sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions — that identify the risk level for each county and a corresponding color code to represent that risk level.

Lawrence County is listed at Red Level Three for the 10th week, its second stint at the designation since the system was implements in the summer.

DeWine said the pandemic represents “the single greatest threat to the physical well-being of all Ohioans, the mental health of our citizens and our economic security.”

“As your governor, I took an oath that, with it, comes the solemn responsibility to do everything I can to protect and preserve life,” he said. “This has required some really tough decisions, and

I know that these decisions have impacted Ohioans in a lot of different ways. But, I also know that Ohioans can get through this if we work together and do what we need to do in these next three weeks. We can protect each other. You and your families deserve to have some normalcy in your lives, and there are things that each one of us can do to help all of us live safely with the virus.”

Another COVID-19 death was reported by the Lawrence County Health Department on Thursday, putting the total number of deaths in the county at 42. Twenty-two women and 20 men, ages 52-98, have died of the virus since the first death was reported on Aug. 13.

The total number of positive cases reported since March 25 was 2,844 on Thursday.

Since April, 219 people have been hospitalized with the coronavirus. 9,760 tests have been done.

On Thursday, the State of Ohio had 531,850 cases of COVID-19, which was up 11,738 cases since Wednesday and there have been 7,298 deaths, including 111 on Wednesday.