A sustained increase in the number of county residents seeking medical care for symptoms of COVID-19 and a sustained rise in the number of new cases resulted in Fayette County being moved to a “Level 3/Red Alert” in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System (OPHAS) on Thursday.
According to OPHAS risk level guidelines, this indicates that Fayette County currently has very high exposure and spread. Residents should limit activities as much as possible and follow all current health orders, according to Fayette County Public Health (FCPH).
On Friday, FCPH reported that hospitalizations in the county are trending upward. Thirty county residents were hospitalized for COVID-19 from March-September, but there have been 11 new hospitalizations since Oct. 1, accounting for more than a quarter of total COVID-19 hospitalizations.
What does “red alert” mean for the community? Here are the answers from FCPH:
This alert is about taking a hard look and a deep breath.
• We each should take a close look, with a critical eye, at the plans we’ve each put in place to protect our family, our employees and our community.
• With some red flags raised by the recent trend data, we need to have plans in place that allow us to act quickly…to adjust to the increased risk for exposure for those we love and for those we are committed to protecting.
• Now is the time to re‐evaluate our personal risk tolerance and make sure we are taking the steps necessary to reduce our individual risk to a level we are comfortable with.
The alert system is an early warning system like a weather alert or snow emergency.
• Alerts are designed to help inform individuals, business, and community leaders as to whether exposure risk is increasing, decreasing or plateauing.
• It provides context and awareness as to the scope of COVID‐19 within our community.
• It gives us time to take actions to reverse worrisome trends.
• It should be viewed as a spectrum:
Yellow and orange alerts indicate lower risk levels (new case counts growing within the community).
Red indicates significant increases in several of our leading indicators (starting to see increases in individuals seeking medical care).
Purple indicates we are seeing increases in serious illness or burden on the healthcare systems.
What does ‘Red’ Mean for my daily life?
• For the community:
Yellow and orange represent lower risk. You may feel comfortable allowing your child to have a play date with a friend; dining out with a friend; visiting friends/family.
Red represents increasing risk. Take a second look at your comfort level. You may choose to forgo play dates; do a virtual visit with a friend; skip the cookout.
• For a business:
Yellow and orange would indicate continue what you are already doing to protect your employees and your customers.
Red would trigger you to revisit your safety precautions and examine with a critical eye ‐ are social distancing efforts in work areas, lobbies and congregate areas working or is an adjustment needed; can more work be done virtually; how is my mask compliance among employees‐are reminders needed; are sick policies being enforced; limit travel or consider quarantine protocols upon return
• For community groups:
Yellow and orange would indicate continue your standard precautions.
Red would trigger you to take a second look at your safety protocols; examine if there is a need to go back to virtual; how is compliance with guidelines.
Remember the actions we take today can affect where we are tomorrow.
• The incubation period of this disease is 2‐14 days.
• That means what we see in today’s data reflects the actions we took two weeks ago.
• It also means our actions today will shape how the data in two weeks looks.
• As we live through the pandemic, we are going to see peaks and valleys In our cases. When we are trending up, we act quickly to move the trend downward so our physical and financial health of our community is protected.
Waiting to act can carry significant risk to our community.
• If we wait to warn or act until hospitalizations or deaths are increasing, it is possible we may give the virus an opening to our most vulnerable.
• Mathematical modeling suggests social distancing and face coverings work best at slowing the impact of the virus when there is still a low prevalence of the disease in a community.
• We don’t know for certain how this virus will end up being recorded in the history books. We pray and hope that the fatality rate of this disease continues to decline as healthcare providers have more knowledge and tools to treat. But for now, we have to act on what we know right now.
• Living through a pandemic requires us to stay vigilant for a long time. We need to see the peaks coming before they take a toll.
We can act to protect our loved ones.
• Avoid crowded areas.
• Keep six feet between you and others.
• Wear masks when in public places.
• Wash hands frequently.
• Stay home if feeling sick.
• Individuals at high risk for severe complications and their families should continue to take extra precautions.
We can follow public health guidance
If you are sick or if you have tested positive for COVID‐19 without symptoms:
– Stay home and stay away from others, even in your own home.
– Stay home until after least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours with no fever without fever‐reducing medication and symptoms have improved.
– If you live with others, stay in a specific “sick room” or area and away from other people or animals, including pets, if at all possible. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
If you tested positive for COVID‐19 but do not have symptoms.
– Stay home until after 10 days have passed since your positive test
If you had close contact with a person who has COVID‐19
– Stay home until 14 days after your last contact with the person who has COVID‐19
– Follow these additional steps: Check your temperature twice a day and watch for symptoms of COVID‐19. If possible, stay away from people who are at higher‐risk for getting very sick from COVID‐19.