COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Residents in Columbus and Franklin County will learn Thursday afternoon whether the county is moving back to purple on the state’s Public Health Advisory System.

Purple is level 4, the highest level in the system designed to warn residents about COVID-19 in the community. Purple indicates severe exposure and spread. It is higher than red (very high), orange (increased) and yellow (active).

To be designated at level 4, a county must trip at least six of seven alert indicators for disease spread on consecutive weeks. And last week, Franklin County was placed on a watchlist after tripping six indicators.

New color maps have been released on Thursdays during the pandemic, typically during a news conference with Gov. Mike DeWine.

Here are the seven indicators and which ones that Franklin County tripped last week:

  1. New cases per capita (met)
  2. New cases increase (met)
  3. Non-congregate cases, such as outside nursing homes (met)
  4. Emergency department visits (met)
  5. Outpatient visits (met)
  6. Hospital admission (met)
  7. ICU bed occupancy (not met)

To be removed from the watchlist and remain at level 3, or red, Franklin County must trip 4-5 indicators on this week’s map.

A look at recent maps shows how Franklin County ended up on the watchlist. As recently as March 18, Franklin County was tripping two of the seven indicators (new cases per capita and non-congregate cases) and the only thing keeping the county from dropping to level 2 was its high incidence of cases as defined by the CDC.

The county then tripped the indicators for new case increase and emergency department visits on March 25. And on April 8, it tripped the indicators for outpatient visits and hospital admissions.

The county appears unlikely to trip the final indicator, ICU bed occupancy. Last week, it was at 5%, well below the 20% threshold.

Local health officials said last week that they have not decided how they will respond if Franklin County returns to purple. The county was under a stay-at-home advisory and a statewide curfew the last time it reached level 4, measures that have since expired.

“What we’ll do is see where we are next week,” Franklin County Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola said. “Hopefully, we won’t have to make that determination.”

Once at purple, a county must trip fewer than six indicators on consecutive weeks to drop down.