CLEVELAND — For the first time in more than a month, Cleveland residents no longer have to mask up.
Cuyahoga County has dropped to the CDC's medium community spread level for COVID-19, meaning case numbers and hospitalizations are no longer high enough for health experts to recommend face coverings for those in indoor public spaces. Ashland, Lorain, and Wayne counties were among the other areas in Northeast Ohio falling from the high level.
The CDC has continues to relax its coronavirus guidelines in recent weeks and months, but still recommends masking for people living in "high" counties, regardless of vaccination status. To meet this threshold, counties must either see at least 20 new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 residents in a given week or a combination of both 200 new cases and 10 new hospitalizations per capita.
Seven Northeast Ohio counties remain at the high "orange" level. They are:
- Ashtabula - 202.59 cases per 100K, 15.9 new hospitalizations
- Erie - 234.29 cases per 100K, 14 new hospitalizations
- Huron - 224.83 cases per 100K, 14 new hospitalizations
- Mahoning - 196.78 cases per 100K, 22.4 new hospitalizations
- Richland - 262.48 cases per 100K, 10.3 new hospitalizations
- Trumbull - 200.03 cases per 100K, 22.4 new hospitalizations
- Tuscarawas - 209.81 cases per 100K, 14.3 new hospitalizations
By comparison, Cuyahoga County saw 15.9 new cases per capita and Lorain 14, but both were able to drop to the medium level of "yellow" by only recording 192.05 and 195.91 new cases per 100,000 citizens, respectively. Health leaders still advise those with compromised immune systems to wear masks and get tested for COVID-19 in certain situations while living in those areas, which in addition to the counties listed above include Carroll, Geauga, Holmes, Lake, Medina, Portage, Stark, and Summit.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine did not enact any new mask or health mandates the last time counties went "orange" late in the spring (partly due to a controversial new law limiting his pandemic powers), and is unlikely to do so this time. However, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish did order all employees and visitors to wear face coverings inside government buildings, and private businesses and establishments across the state are still largely free to enact their own policies.
The Ohio Department of Health reported more than 25,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the past seven days on Thursday. It marked the first time since late July that the number of new cases in the Buckeye State had gone up, and all counties except 12 (including all in Northeast Ohio) are at either the "yellow" level for medium, or "orange" level for high.