These 3 stats show why October could be Ohio’s worst month for COVID-19

Coronavirus

Gov. DeWine: "...in virtually every place, we're in trouble."

Cuyahoga early voting covid

Residents of Cuyahoga County, separated by plastic due to health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, arrive to fill out paper ballots for early, in person voting at the board of elections office in downtown Cleveland, Ohio on October 16, 2020. (Photo by DUSTIN FRANZ/AFP via Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As Ohio breaks its record for new COVID-19 cases almost daily, October is on track to be the state’s worst month in this pandemic for people contracting the virus, overtaking a summer spike in July.

But the daily change in cases is not the only statistic that shows why Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday said, “We are now at a point in Ohio where in virtually every place, we’re in trouble.”

Here are three statistics that show why officials say Ohio is headed in the wrong direction.

No. 1: Onset days

The daily increase in new COVID-19 cases, although representative of how the state is trending, is not the most accurate mile marker. Most of the positive tests the Ohio Department of Health receives every day were actually done up to 14 days prior.

What ODH’s and NBC4’s coronavirus dashboards track long term is a datapoint called onset date: the day someone first showed symptoms.

Eight of the top 10 and 10 of the top 13 days in which Ohioans got sick with the virus have been in October.

RankOnset DateCases
1.Oct. 122,236
2.April 162,172
3.Oct. 132,000
4.Oct. 191,946
5.Oct. 141,905
6.July 131,790
7.Oct. 51,763
8.Oct. 161,749
9.Oct. 71,746
10.Oct. 91,743
11.Oct. 151,738
12.July 61,720
13.Oct. 61,709
*As of Friday, Oct. 23. Data from previous 14 days is always preliminary and expected to rise.

Note that the second-ranked day, April 16, was abnormally high because prisons in Marion and Pickaway counties reported a bunch of cases all at once.

No. 2: Cases per month

When looking at onset cases per month, October is already second to July with more than 32,000 cases.

RankMonthCases
1.July40,143
2.October32,335
3.August31,306
4.September30,296
5.June19,927
6.April16,986
7.May15,906
8.March5,811
9.February175
10.January63
*As of Friday, Oct. 23. Data from previous 14 days is always preliminary and expected to rise.

Just on Friday, October notched 2,479 more onset cases of COVID-19, jumping from fourth to second in the rankings. With eight days left this month, as well as the fact that onset totals can rise for 14 days afterward, October could easily become No. 1.

Ohio is also not the only place in America where the coronavirus pandemic is getting worse this month. On Thursday, the U.S. reported more than 77,000 cases, according to analysis by NBC News. That’s the county’s highest one-day increase, topping the previous record set in July.

No. 3: Percentage of positive tests

While Ohio reports record numbers of COVID-19 cases, health workers in the state are also doing record numbers of tests. Last Thursday, Oct. 15, saw the most coronavirus tests completed in a day with 50,067.

More tests mean more cases, but even the percentage of positive cases per number of tests has increased since the end of September.

The seven-day average for percent positive tests is 5.1% as of Wednesday, the most recent day available on ODH’s interactive tracker. The last time it was that high was Aug. 13 (5.2%), and the highest it got in July was 6.5% on July 13 and 14.

And at the end of September, the seven-day average was 3.2%, among the lowest it has ever been.

A screenshot from the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 testing tracker shows Ohio’s increase in testing since March, as well as an increase in percent positivity in October.

Pay attention to deaths

Despite an increase in cases, deaths have yet to spike like they did in July, when as many as 38 people died in Ohio hospitals from COVID-19 on a single day. October’s highest daily death toll has been 13.

Deaths, however, are what health experts call a “lagging indicator,” because the time from testing positive to being hospitalized to dying from the virus can be weeks.

A working paper this summer from researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found “deaths often occur 2-8 week after onset of symptoms.”

In July, Ohio’s worst day for COVID-19 cases was July 13. The worst day for deaths that month was 16 days later, July 29.

“[W]e expect that deaths attributable to COVID-19 will increase 4-6 weeks after observed surges in case rates,” the Harvard authors wrote. They noted, though, that the magnitude of a surge depends on the ages and locations of patients.

Ohio’s hospitalizations have yet to reach July-like levels, but they have generally increased along with cases since mid-September. Oct. 19 was the state’s fifth-highest day for hospitalizations when 116 people were admitted to the hospital.

DeWine’s warning

On Thursday, a record number of counties — 38 of 88 — were classified as red by Ohio’s coronavirus advisory system with “very high exposure and spread.” To be red, counties must meet at least four of the state’s seven statistical indicators.

“We’ve got four counties, I think, left in southeast Ohio where as of today it’s not horrible,” Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday, eluding to the just four rural counties that remain at the lowest level of the color code. “But every place else is not good, it’s bad.”

Franklin County Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola on Friday urged people to not become lax in following health protocols, especially as Ohio State football returns to Columbus this weekend.

“We continue to see a significant increase in COVID-19 cases here in Franklin County, and we need to remain vigilant to do our part to slow the spread,” Mazzola said in a statement. “If you decide to gather, always be in groups of less than 10, wear a mask, keep 6 feet apart, wash your hands often and stay home if you’re sick.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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