COLUMBUS (WCMH) — On the eighth consecutive day that Ohio reported more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19, October became the state’s worst month for cases in a pandemic that traces back 10 months.
42,030 people in Ohio have gotten sick with the virus in October as of Tuesday, eclipsing July’s 40,172.
This datapoint, called the “onset date,” is different than the number of new coronavirus cases announced every day. Instead, the Ohio Department of Health backdates announced cases to when a patient began experiencing symptoms.
“Sadly, the red tide of the virus continues to spread throughout Ohio into every corner of this state,” Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday during his coronavirus briefing. “There is no escaping it.”
October still has four more days to increase its record number of cases until the calendar flips to November on Sunday.
However, because the backdating process accounts for COVID-19’s ability to linger in the body for up to two weeks, the total number of onset cases for a given day are always preliminary for 14 days afterward, and, thus, are expected to rise. This means October could still be notching onset cases through Nov. 14.
October alone has accounted for more than 1 in 5 of Ohio’s cases. As of Tuesday, 14 of the top 16 days for onset cases, including the entire top five, have been in October.
Ohioans in their twenties have led the state this month in infections, followed by people in their fifties, thirties and those 19 and under. The most vulnerable people, those 60 and older, have gotten sick less often.
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The age breakdown in July was nearly identical, but then infections among people in their twenties accounted for 24% of the month’s total. In October, their share was 18%.
Some of Ohio’s most populous counties, Franklin, Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Montgomery led the state in infections in both October and July. Franklin County led the state in both months with 7,021 in July and 4,501 so far in October.
A rural pandemic
Accounting for population, however, shows a different picture. One thing that has made October’s spike in cases different than July’s is that smaller counties have experienced dramatic increases.
Twenty-five counties have seen at least one-third of their cases during the entire pandemic occur in October, according to analysis of ODH data by NBC4. Seventeen of those 25 counties have populations below 50,000.
For Noble County (pop. 14,424) and Vinton County (pop. 13,085), cases have more than doubled in October, from 55 to 172 in Noble and from 56 to 114 in Vinton.
By comparison, Ohio’s two most populous counties, Franklin and Cuyahoga, have seen just 14% and 13%, respectively, of their total cases in October.
Last week, 69 of Ohio’s 88 counties had “high incidence” of COVID-19, as labeled by ODH. On Tuesday, that number rose to 82.
“This virus is spreading and it is everywhere in Ohio,” DeWine said.
Ohio’s spike in cases runs parallel to increases across the United States. COVID-19 cases have increased 40% nationwide in the past 14 days, according to analysis by The New York Times. Deaths have increased 14% over the same period.
Deaths in Ohio have yet to show a spike, but they have leveled out in October to around a dozen per day after decreasing since late August. An increase in coronavirus hospitalizations in Ohio, though, has been virtually parallel to the state’s increase in cases since late September.
“We have seen peaks in the hospitalization before, once in the spring, again in the summer. The current increase in (hospital bed) utilization is noticeably sharper,” DeWine said, “steeper than the increase we saw during the summer peak.”
“We’re not to the point where any of our hospitals are overflowing,” the governor added, “but the trend lines are not good.”
DeWine said community spread is driving this fall spike and that Ohioans need to be stricter in following health guidelines. That means, he said, not holding large gatherings, keeping social distance, wearing masks, staying home if experiencing coronavirus symptoms, obeying quarantine and working from home if possible.