CLEVELAND — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine revealed on Thursday that 65% of Ohioans are now in red counties, meaning high exposure and spread of the coronavirus.
Cuyahoga County and Summit County have returned to a Level 3 coronavirus advisory. Nearby Portage County, Stark County and Mahoning County remain red as well.
Northeast Ohio is hardly alone in this regard as 29 of Ohio's 88 counties are currently listed as red, which indicates "very high exposure and spread."
Altogether, 65 percent of Ohioans are currently living in red counties, with a total of 52 counties currently considered "high incidence."
The increase in red counties across Ohio comes as the state has seen a recent spike in its coronavirus data. On Thursday, Ohio reported 2,178 new coronavirus cases -- one day after reporting 2,039 new cases.
Gov. DeWine said that while schools have done a good job of helping mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, social gatherings outside of school have helped to spread the virus.
"This is the worst situation Ohio has been in,” said Gov. DeWine. "There's a limit to what a Governor could do or should do and we are the point where we have to live with this virus the consequences of going in and shutting things down again would be devastating not just financially… but devastating to people in their individual lives."
Additionally, DeWine said that county health commissioners have noted that there has been less mask compliance as of late than there was in previous months.
While a Level 3 risk designation previously enacted a mask mandate in that county, a statewide mask mandate when in public has been in effect in Ohio since July.
Parma City Schools Superintendent Charles Smialek says school districts have tough decisions ahead.
“We were seeing good trends in Cuyahoga County so to spike again…to say it's frustrating is to understate the impact we are all feeling today."
Under the school district’s original plan, students would return to virtual learning when the county hits level red, which is the current state.
"We've had great success within our schools and so do we really want to send students back out of schools because that was the plan and is that still the best course of action?” said Smialek. "Anytime the county goes in the wrong direction ultimately those cases trickle in [to the schools.]"
Smialek says he hopes to have a decision for students, parents and staff within the coming days.
“Anytime you have a spike in the county, these are difficult decisions we have to make in the coming days.”