Franklin County First In Ohio To Reach Highest Level Of COVID-19 Severity

A view of the downtown Columbus skyline from Franklinton.
A view of the downtown Columbus skyline from Franklinton. [Mary Rathke / WOSU]

Franklin County is the first and only county in the state to be elevated to a level four "purple" health emergency, the most severe indicator on Ohio's Public Health Advisory Alert System.

Franklin County, which recently issued a "stay at home" advisory urging residents to avoid inessential activities, had been listed as a level three "red" county on the map for quite some time. The color-coded system ranks counties by outbreak severity based on information such as new cases per capita, hospital admissions, and ICU bed occupancy.

Recent COVID-19 data, including a surge of cases and hospitalizations, has raised Franklin County's level of concern.

Across the state, dozens of counties have even greater spread than Franklin. Four counties – Mercer, Putnam, Lake and Allen – have COVID-19 rates higher than 1,000 new cases per 100,000 people.

"In the last two weeks, one out of every 100 persons in that county has tested positive," Gov. Mike DeWine explained at a coronavirus press conference Thursday.

The state's system urges Franklin County residents to stay home, except for getting food and supplies. But it is not accompanied by any state mandates or orders.

The advisory from Columbus and Franklin County officials takes effect on Friday, and lasts for 28 days. It recommends that people do not leave their homes except for important errands like getting food or medical care, to not hold holiday gatherings outside of their immediate household, and avoid traveling in or out of state.

On the state level, DeWine has announced a curfew to take effect Thursday night, which orders businesses to stay closed and people to stay home from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. for the next three weeks. The curfew contains exemptions for going to work, the hospital, or getting food or medical care, and allows restaurants to continue delivery and takeout services.

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