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Cuyahoga County drops from 'high' to 'substantial' COVID-19 transmission level as surge ebbs

woman taking COVID-19 test
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Levels of COVID-19 transmission in Cuyahoga County are not yet low enough to ditch masks, but we're moving in the right direction, Cuyahoga County health board officials said in a news conference Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County has dropped from a "high" level of COVID-19 community transmission to a "substantial" level of transmission based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) benchmarks, county board of health officials announced during a press conference Wednesday.

After the Delta and Omicron variants fueled a spike in infections beginning at the end of December, COVID-19 cases are finally trending down, said Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan.

The county entered the lower transmission category because of two figures: The rate of COVID infection is now about 70 cases per 100,000 residents, and less than 9% of people tested are positive for the virus, he explained.

Ohio Department of Health
Ohio Department of Health COVID Dashboard

Those figures represent asignificant amount of change that has taken place in the last month.

"Cuyahoga County had the highest case rate in the state on Jan. 1," Allan said. "By Jan. 24, we had the lowest case rate in the state."

Although the county is in a better transmission category, “substantial transmission” does not mean the threat has passed. The CDC recommends that people in counties with substantial transmission continue to wear a mask in public in indoor settings, according to Allan.

If infections continue to ebb and the county moves into “moderate” and “low” transmission categories, the CDC recommends only the unvaccinated wear masks inside, Allan said.

Officials continued to urge that the public take precautions to stop the spread of the virus.

Slightly more than 60% of county residents are fully vaccinated, meaning they've had two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one Johnson and Johnson shot, Allan said. Of those, about 56% are boosted. The rates of vaccination are lower among the county's African American and Latino communities, whose rates are 42% and 57% respectively, according to Allan.

The county board of health recommends that schools continue to require masks and the public should get vaccinated or boosted to prevent hospitalization and death.

“Vaccination and boosting have always been our way out of this pandemic,” Allan said. “They also protect against any variants that might emerge.”

more, visit WCPN.

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.