LAKE COUNTY, Ohio — On Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine made a stop in Cleveland to address the state’s “deteriorating” coronavirus situation. During his remarks from Burke Lakefront Airport, he pointed out that Lake County has 10 times the positivity rate than what the Centers for Disease Control defines as “high incidence,” with 1 out of 100 people in the county testing positive for the disease in the last two weeks.

Lake County is the only county in Northeast Ohio among the top 20 counties with the highest occurrence of COVID-19 cases.

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In the last two weeks, Lake County reported 2,260 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The county has the 4th-highest incidence rate for the past two weeks of all 88 counties in Ohio.

“You know, these numbers are just shocking. It means that one out of 100 people in the last two weeks was diagnosed with COVID,” DeWine said when referencing Lake County in the top 20 counties.

Lake County remains at a Red Level 3 on the state’s Public Health Advisory System.

On Wednesday, Lake County Health Commissioner Ron H. Graham announced changes to the way Lake conducts COVID-19 investigations and contact tracing procedures in order “to maximize the number of lives saved.”

“This is unprecedented. It’s hitting us hard,” Graham said,

The department has made the “difficult” decision to shift staff resources to conduct case interviews and limit contact tracing activities for most confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“Systematic testing, contact tracing, and supported isolation and quarantine remain the cornerstone of an effective public health response to the COVID-19 epidemic,” Graham said. “However, the ongoing high level of disease activity in Lake County, and across Ohio, is resulting in alarming numbers of cases and exposed contacts that exceed the capacity of the public health workforce in nearly all jurisdictions.”

Graham compared the decision to stop contact tracing to how hospitals postpone elective surgeries, further explaining, “public health must prioritize and adjust to rapidly changing conditions in a community.”

Lake County residents can expect the following:

  • LCGHD will only contact confirmed cases of COVID-19, rather than probable cases, reported via the Ohio Disease Reporting System. Interviews will be conducted to determine isolation periods, identify close contacts, and determine the risk of transmission to vulnerable populations.
  • LCGHD is requesting confirmed cases communicate directly to their own close contacts to notify of possible exposure. LCGHD will conduct limited contact tracing only if those individuals are determined to be at high risk for severe disease, are critical infrastructure workers, or are at risk for creating an outbreak. As a result, contact tracing will not occur in most situations.

For anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, whether they are showing symptoms or not, the LCGHD said the same instructions should apply, isolate at home, including:

  • Monitor symptoms. Seek medical care immediately if having trouble breathing.
  • Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible.
  • Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets.
  • Clean and sanitize any commonly touched surfaces such as door knobs, remote controls, etc.
  • Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask when around other people living in the household.
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A chart for Lake County showing the 7 major COVID-19 metrics the state uses to gauge counties in its Public Health Advisory System.

“It’s just a phenomenal raging fire going through the state,” DeWine said.

RELATED: COVID-related death, multiple hospitalizations, more than a dozen positive COVID-19 tests within Willoughby family

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Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Ohio, a timeline of Governor Mike DeWine’s orders since the outbreak, coronavirus’ impact on Northeast Ohio, and link to more information from the Ohio Department of Health, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the CDC and the WHO.

See data visualizations showing the impact of coronavirus in Ohio, including county-by-county maps, charts showing the spread of the disease, and more.

The CDC and the Ohio Department of Health are now recommending the use of cloth face coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Read more about the CDC’s recommendation here. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make a face mask from common household materials, without having to know how to sew.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

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