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COVID Cases Climbing, Survey Says Exposure May Have Been Much Higher

Oct 1, 2020

Public Health Advisory map, October 1, 2020.
Credit Ohio Department of Health

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Ohio continues a recent upward trend, with 1,327 new cases reported in the past 24-hours, and 13 deaths.  

There have been over 155-thousand cases and 4,817 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The number of counties at level three on the states public health advisory map is the highest it's been since the beginning of September, with 11 counties in the red.  Delaware County dropped back to a level two advisory, but Hamilton, Clermont, Muskingum and Richland Counties all returned to level three status.  

At today's coronavirus press conference Governor Mike DeWine said that Richland County is on the watchlist for the highest category, a level four public health advisory.  No county has been rated that high a public health threat since the state began using the CDC's system of classifying risk.

Results are being released on the state's first coronavirus survey from a cross section of the state.  The survey tested 727 adults over three weeks in July, taking blood samples for coronavirus antibodies and nasal swabs for active cases.

Ohio State University professsor Dr. Abigail Norris Turner says the results show 0.9% of those surveyed tested positive for the active virus, and 1.5% showed antibodies that indicated they had had the virus within the previous three months.  She says could translate to much higher numbers than have been reported to the Ohio Department of Health. 

"I told you that 0.9% of the sample had active disease during this period of July.  And if you look at population of Ohio adults, that corresponds to about 80,000 Ohio adults that would have had COVID during these 20 days in July.  Similarly, if you look at that 1.5% antibody prevalance that corresponds to about 133,000 Ohio adults who had evidence of past infection.  Even in place of exact estimates what we can say with confidence is that some hundred of thousands of Ohioans have had COVID, and millions of Ohioans remain susceptible to COVID."

Norris Turner says research is still being done to determine whether antibodies provide future protection against reinfection, and what  factors affect how long antibodies linger in the blood stream.  The survey results show Ohio is a long way away from achieving "herd immunity", when enough people have antibody protection to prevent a new wave of cases.  

Over 3.2 million COVID-19 tests have been administered in Ohio since the beginning of the pandemic.  Governor DeWine noted that the state's positivity rate, which had been dropping, is rising again.