Health officials to urge virtual-only school, remote work if Cuyahoga County raised to purple level

Coronavirus

CLEVELAND (WJW)– Ohio’s rapidly escalating COVID-19 case numbers have Gov. Mike DeWine and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health bracing for purple.

Cuyahoga is one of three counties on watch to be elevated to Level 4 purple on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, which measures coronavirus exposure and spread.

“Going purple basically means we’re starting to see some problems with the hospitals,” DeWine said on Wednesday.

According to the state, Level 4 constitutes a serious public emergency with “severe exposure and spread,” where people are only to leave home for “supplies and services.”

“This is a difficult time throughout the state of Ohio,” DeWine said. “Never seen anything like this before in Ohio.”

For weeks the governor has been pleading with the public to wear masks and to help slow ongoing community spread of the virus. Currently, 82 of Ohio’s 88 counties are seeing high incidence of spread.

“We’ve been red for several weeks so we’ve really been in a high activity level mode and particularly as it pertains to schools and businesses,” said Kevin Brennan, Cuyahoga County Board of Health communications director.

Brennan confirmed the health commissioner spoke with DeWine and has been in around-the-clock meetings in preparation for the possible elevated status, which will be announced Thursday.

“If we do go purple, we do have set of recommendations on our website,” Brennan said. “Schools, we’ve been dialoging with them on a regular basis so they’re very well aware of what those are.”  

According to the county’s recommendations based on CDC guidance, under purple all “schools are strongly encouraged to implement a model where all students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities and events.” It’s unclear at this time how that would impact fall and winter sports.

Businesses would be encouraged to return to practices implemented at the start of the pandemic.

“For businesses, I think they have to make individual decisions as to whether they want to increase the number of people they want to work remotely,” Brennan said. “You’ll recall back in the spring, we had the essential/non-essential business issue and at that time we were recommending that essential businesses try to do as much virtual operation as they can.” 

As of Wednesday, neither DeWine or the board of health were announcing or considering any new health orders.

“Just because we’re not going to do something this Friday, if we find out that we’re purple doesn’t mean we won’t get new information or new circumstances that could cause us to make a change to the decision, but for right now we’re just going to carry forward with what we have,” Brennan said.

That includes strongly encouraging everyone to wear facial coverings, practice social distancing, frequent hand washing and frequently sanitizing surfaces.

The indicators for the Ohio Public Health Advisory System are new cases per capita, sustained increase in new cases, proportion of cases that are not in congregate settings, sustained increase in COVID-19-related emergency room visits, sustained increase in COVID-19 outpatient visits including telehealth, sustained increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions and intensive care unit occupancy.

  • Level 1 (Yellow): Active exposure and spread.
    • Conduct a daily health/symptom self-evaluation and stay at home if symptomatic.
    • Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from non-household members.
    • Wear face coverings in public especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain.
    • Increase caution when interacting with others not practicing social distancing or wearing face covers.
    • Avoid traveling to high-risk areas.
    • Follow good hygiene standards.
  • Level 2 (Orange): Increased exposure and spread. Exercise high degree of caution.
    • Same guidelines as in Level 1.
    • Avoid contact with anyone who is considered high-risk.
    • High-risk individuals should take extra care to follow precautions.
    • Decrease in-person interactions outside household.
    • Seek medical care as needed, but limit or avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals, nursing homes and residential care facilities to see others as much as possible.
  • Level 3 (Red): Very high exposure and spread. Limit activities as much as possible.
    • Same guidelines as in Levels 1 and 2.
    • Decrease in-person interactions with others.
    • Consider necessary travel only.
    • Limit attending gatherings of any number.
  • Level 4 (Purple): Severe exposure and spread. Only leave home for supplies and services.
    • Same guidelines as in Level 1 to 3.
    • Stay at home/necessary travel only.

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