COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Franklin County stands at level 4, or purple, on the state’s Public Health Advisory System for COVID-19 spread, and don’t expect it to drop down soon.
Purple is used to indicate severe spread of COVID-19 in the community, with the Department of Health ranking Ohio’s 88 counties every week on seven indicators. A county must meet at least six of those indicators on consecutive weeks to be designated purple, and a similar system is in place for a county to move down.
Here are the seven indicators and which ones Franklin County — the state’s only purple county — has met the past two weeks:
- New cases per capita (met)
- New cases increase (met)
- Non-congregate cases, such as outside nursing homes (met)
- Emergency department visits (met)
- Outpatient visits (met)
- Hospital admission (met)
- ICU bed occupancy (not met)
Purple is the highest warning level for a county. For meeting 4-5 indicators, it is red, or level 3. For 2-3 indicators, it is orange, or level 2. And for 0-1, it is yellow, or level 1. In addition, once a county has a high incidence of cases as determined by the CDC, it cannot drop below level 3 no matter how many indicators it meets until it stops doing so.
Just a little over a month ago, on March 18, Franklin County was meeting only two indicators but was rated at level 3 because of its high incidence of cases. Two more indicators were met on March 25, and then another two on April 8. It was designated purple last Thursday.
Just as it took two weeks for Franklin County to move up to purple, for it drop to a lower level, it must meet fewer than six indicators on consecutive weeks. That means the county will remain at level 4 for the map scheduled to be released Thursday. If it is meeting fewer than six indicators on that map, the soonest it could drop down is April 29.
The last time Franklin County was purple, in the fall, the county was under a stay-at-advisory and a statewide 10 p.m. curfew, and most schools were in fully remote or hybrid learning models. Since then, most of those measures have ended, and local health officials said last week that they are not recommending their return and are not recommending that schools revert from in-person learning.
One main difference is the availability of vaccines now.
“Despite turning purple, we have to keep the schools open,” said Dr. Rustin Morse of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, pointing to a state program to vaccinate teachers in February and the Pfizer vaccine now being available to children as young as 16.
And entertainment and sports venues are continuing to plan for the return of concerts, events and games. In the past week, the Columbus Clippers and the Columbus Crew have welcomed fans to home games.
“We know so much more today than we knew five months ago,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus health commissioner.
Although the color maps remain a tool that the state continues to track and update weekly, health officials now look more closely at case count per 100,000 residents. Using that metric, Franklin does not fall even in the top 11 counties in the state, even though none of those counties are at level 4.