CLEVELAND — Ohio's COVID-19 numbers appear to be improving, with the state health department reporting a decrease of 2,000 new cases this past week compared to the one prior. Following the first drop in two months, health guidelines are now loosening up in some areas.
According to the CDC, Ashtabula County has now moved down to a "medium" community level for the coronavirus after two weeks in the "high" zone. This means health experts are no longer recommending all county residents wear masks while in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC suggestions take new and active hospitalizations into account, and become more stringent of any county has reported at least 200 new COVID cases per 100,000 citizens over the previous week. During the last seven days, the center says Ashtabula County has seen only 163.51 new cases per capita, meaning its 10.4 new hospitalizations per capita no longer meet the threshold to take it beyond the "yellow" risk area (20.0 is needed when the case figure is below 200).
As of Thursday, both Cuyahoga and Lorain counties remain "orange," but the numbers appear to be going down and are barely above the threshold. Cuyahoga reported 207.19 new cases and 10.4 new hospitalizations per capita during the week (down from 240.15 and 11.9, respectively), while Lorain sits at 240.77 and 10.2 for the same indicators (a drop from 267.89 and 11.8).
While masks are no longer fully advised in Ashtabula County, the CDC still says people in medium areas should think about possibly wearing coverings or avoiding crowded areas if they are immunocompromised. Local and state governments in Ohio are not expected to issue any more sweeping mask mandates for high communities, but business and establishments are still free to set their own rules, and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish is requiring all employees and visitors to wear masks while inside county government buildings for the time being.
Aside from Cuyahoga and Lorain, Youngstown and the rest of Mahoning County are now at a high community level, as are Toledo and Lucas County along with Lawrence and Pike counties further south. Eight other Northeast Ohio counties still sit with Ashtabula at medium risk: