COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine held a statehouse update on the spread of COVID-19 in the state at 2 p.m. Thursday, where he is expected to make an announcement in regards to the reopening of schools in the fall. 

As of July 2, a total of 54,166 (+1,301) cases were reported in Ohio since the pandemic began, leading to 2,903 (+27) deaths and 8,038 hospitalizations (+127).

The Department of Health adds the data when it is informed of a case or death. The information is backdated to the actual date the person started exhibiting symptoms or the date the person died.

The governor started Thursday’s briefing discussing guidance for reopening K-12 schools. DeWine says we have an obligation to educate our children and keep them safe. Local control of our schools is important but state has an obligation to give children an education.

DeWine said they have developed guidelines each school should follow, but will also allow for schools to adjust to their situation.

Guidelines include:

  • Assessing symptoms
  • Washing and sanitizing hands to prevent spread
  • Thorough cleaning of the school environment
  • Practice social distancing
  • Implement face coverings policy

Governor DeWine says the social distancing guidelines will certainly make things look different. He said some schools may stagger lunch times or even have modified schedules.

Teachers and staff members will be required to wear a face covering, unless it is unsafe for their job.

Children in third grade and up will be strongly encouraged to wear a mask.

To assist schools in their efforts to implement the guidelines, DeWine said the Ohio Department of Education created “The Reset and Restart Education Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts” to help schools w/ solutions to the many challenges they face.

Governor DeWine says he intends to work with the General Assembly to come up with a plan to give schools monetary assistance from the CARES Act. He says it won’t be enough to cover all expenses, but they want to help as much as possible.

The governor said we are now moving into a phase where we must learn to live with the virus. He said, going forward, they will maintain baseline orders like distancing, businesses, etc. But a new “warning system” is coming.

Governor DeWine says this system will provide lawmakers and health officials with data from across the state. They will start looking at different regions of the state instead of the state as a whole.

A color coded system will be used to show the extent of virus spread in the state, according to DeWine. It will consist of four levels which will be determined by seven data points.

  • New cases per capita
  • Sustained increase in new cases
  • Spread in not-congregate settings
  • Sustained increase in emergency room visits
  • Sustained increase in outpatient visits
  • Sustained increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions
  • ICU bed occupancy
  • Alert Level 1 – Yellow – Counties triggering one or zero indicators. 53 counties are now at this level.
  • Alert Level 2 – Orange – Counties trigger 2 or 3 indicators. 28 counties fall under this level.
  • Alert Level 3 – Red – Counties trigger 4 or 5 indicators. 7 counties fall under this level.
  • Alert Level 4 – Purple – Counties trigger 6 or 7 indicators. No counties are under this level, but Franklin County is approaching this phase.

Franklin County meets five of the seven indicators. There has been ‘explosive’ growth in new cases over the last 7 days. DeWine says the county is in danger of triggering all seven indicators.

He calls the dramatic rise in cases a ‘worrisome trend.’ DeWine said there is likely community spread in every county in the state.

The state’s contact tracers say the virus is spreading in large gatherings, in bars, restaurants and tourist destinations.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says they have had many questions about who has recovered and today they are announcing that data point on the website. He says they will take the overall cases, subtract deaths and subtract cases developed in the last 21 days.

Right now, there are 38,987 presumed recovered cases in Ohio.