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DeWine Blames Weddings And Social Gatherings For Recent COVID-19 Outbreaks

Gov. Mike DeWine holds a coronavirus press conference on September 15, 2020.
Office of Gov. Mike DeWine
Gov. Mike DeWine holds a coronavirus press conference on September 15, 2020.

The number of Ohio counties now on red alert for rapid spread of COVID-19 jumped this week to its highest level since late July. And the number of counties on a level two "orange" alert under Ohio's Public Health Advisory System has gone up to 58, the highest ever.

At his coronavirus briefing Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine said 96% of Ohioans are currently living in a red or orange county.

"Frankly, these numbers are very alarming," DeWine said.

DeWine said the state's positivity rate is now at 3.9%, up from 2.7% in late September.

The latest numbers from the Ohio Department of Health show 1,539 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, one of the highest single-day increases since the pandemic began.

"This is not something we certainly want to see," DeWine said.

DeWine said local health departments trace the trend to what he described as "everyday activities that seem benign." He specifically mentioned neighborhood get-togethers such as backyard barbecues, meetups after sporting events and family activities like birthday parties.

"Half of new red outbreaks are related to funerals or weddings," DeWine said.

Without giving specifics, he mentioned a recent wedding where a number of people were infected and "two of the grandfathers of the couple died as a result of COVID. It's horrible."

Counties elevated to red alert status this week include Mahoning, Trumbull and Portage, where Kent State University has announced plans to increase coronavirus testing. Some 200 students are now under quarantine in residence halls, and DeWine said cases are also creeping into older populations outside of the campus.

Spread in Trumbull County has been linked to a school sports team where 11 players, three coaches, four students and four parents have all tested positive.

Marion, Madison, and Ross Counties are also now on red alert. In Ross County, DeWine said spread has been associated with a prison there, as well as social gatherings and sleepovers.

In Lawrence County in southern Ohio, DeWine said local health officials report the virus is running through families like they've never seen before.

DeWine emphasized a need to adhere to the health principles that will keep the virus in check.

"Keep your distance, wear masks, wash your hands and avoid big gatherings," DeWine said. "We need to adjust our routines. We can live with this virus, but we have to be careful."

A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.