The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upgraded infection levels in Wayne, Ashland and Holmes counties from low to medium for the first time since 2021.
Despite this change, transmission rates and new COVID infections remain low compared to the Omicron wave of November through January.
Wayne, Ashland and Holmes are three of the 19 counties, including Stark and Richland counties, at the medium risk level for infection, according to the CDC. Only Seneca and Hancock counties remain at "low" risk.
Included in the 67 counties at "high" risk are the nearby counties of Summit, Coshocton, Huron and Lorain.
How the jump from 'low' to 'medium' risk is calculated
To calculate the level of infection risk by county, the CDC first looks at how many new cases per 100,000 people occurred in the last seven days.
That is broken down into those counties with fewer than 200 new cases and those with more than or equal to 200 new cases. Wayne and Holmes counties reported slightly more than 159 and nearly 76 new cases, respectively, according to the CDC.
With both under 200 new infections, the indicator bumping the counties up from "low" was the number of new hospitalizations per 100,000 people in a seven-day period ranging between 10 and 19.9.
The two counties recorded an 11.7 admission rate.
Ashland County recorded more than 200 new cases in seven days at 284.2 cases per 100,000 people.
The CDC considers any county like Ashland at either medium or high levels.
Because Ashland County reported nearly 7 new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 in the last seven days with 8% of staffed inpatient beds used by COVID-19 patients, the county is at a medium level.
Cases up in tri-county area with no deaths in the last week
All three counties saw cases rise as deaths remain at zero since last week.
Numbers differ from the CDC, Ohio Department of Health and a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data, but all reflect a similar trend: cases are on the rise in Ashland, Wayne and Holmes while cases fall across Ohio.
Ashland County reported 155 cases and zero deaths in the latest week, according to the USA TODAY report, up from 152 cases and no deaths the week before. The county reported a total of 13,047 cases and 221 deaths.
Wayne County increased by 14 new cases from 184 to 198 from last week with zero deaths. Throughout the pandemic, it has reported 25,154 cases and 446 deaths.
Holmes County has the lowest number of cases with 37 this week and no deaths, up from 33 new cases and no deaths last week. The county reported a total of 5,352 cases and 185 deaths since early 2020.
Staying healthy going forward
Local health departments like those in Wayne and Stark counties are not surprised to see the infection rate change from low to medium.
"Other places in Ohio are going red, so it was a matter of time before we went up," said Nicholas Cascarelli, Wayne County health commissioner. "I wouldn't be surprised if we went to red in the coming weeks."
Like with other illness, Cascarelli recommends individuals and families do what they can to avoid coming in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Getting the vaccine and boosters are two of the most important measures individuals can take, he said.
"It's more infectious but not as deadly, but we still want to prevent people from getting serious illness and from being hospitalized," he said. "We want to help keep people safe who may not be able to fight the virus as well."
Reach Bryce by email at email@example.com
On Twitter: @Bryce_Buyakie
This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: CDC: Wayne, Ashland, Holmes counties at medium risk of infection