Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I hope this letter finds you well during this most turbulent of times. Governor DeWine unveiled a new color-coded warning system for the state of Ohio at a news conference this afternoon. It shows county-by-county hot spots as the coronavirus continues to spread across the state.

The new system displays the prevalence of the virus in each county, making it easier to implement additional closures or measures on a county-by-county basis. More information on how these levels and indicators work follows below.

In light of this new data, I have made the difficult but necessary decision that any of our congregations located in counties that fall within alert level 3 or 4 as defined by the state, should revert back to phase 1 as set out in our Phased Return to Increasing In-person Parish Life document. This means that no in-person services can take place in those specific counties.

This data should be reviewed on a weekly basis. Should your county go down to an alert level 2, then your leaders (clergy and vestry) will need to decide if/when to return to in-person services. Please use caution when making this decision. Staffing of your respective buildings should be reviewed in a similar light.

In addition, both Columbus and Dayton have issued orders requiring face masks to be worn whenever you are outside of your home. Cincinnati city council is meeting on Friday to vote on a similar order. We urge you to follow the orders applicable to your area.

MSN Columbus Article & Yahoo News Dayton Article

This is a very challenging time and things are changing on a daily basis. We understand and respect how this impacts you. As always, the safety of our community is our first priority and we will continue to monitor the situation carefully. If you have any questions or concerns, then please reach out to John Johanssen (Canon to the Ordinary), Carine de Lange(Operations Executive).

State officials explained that there are seven different data indicators to determine the four alert levels. Each data indicator helps identify the risk factor for each county. Those seven factors are as follows:

  1. NEW CASES PER CAPITA: When the data show that a county has had an average of 50 cases per 100,000 people over a 2-week period, then that triggers a flag for an increasing case rate. Using this data means we are taking into account the population of each county when monitoring increases.
  2. SUSTAINED INCREASE IN NEW CASES: If the number of new cases in a county continually increases, then that’s another indicator of virus spread. A county will be flagged for meeting this indicator if the data show at least a five-day period of sustained new case growth.
  3. PREVALENCE OF NON-CONGREGATE CASES: Data showing more than 50% of new cases originating from non-congregate settings during at least one of the past three weeks will trigger a flag on this indicator.
  4. SUSTAINED INCREASE IN ER VISITS: ER data will show us the trend in the number of people who visit an emergency department with COVID-19 symptoms or who receive a COVID-19 diagnosis as a result of the visit. A county is flagged when there is an increase in such ER visits over a five-day period.
  5. SUSTAINED INCREASE IN OUTPATIENT VISITS: This data set looks at the number of people visiting outpatient settings, including telehealth appointments, with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 symptoms. A county is flagged when there is an increase over a five-day period.
  6. SUSTAINED INCREASE IN NEW COVID-19 HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS: When the numbers show at least a five-day period of sustained growth in the number of county residents with COVID-19 who are admitted to a hospital, then the county will be flagged for meeting this indicator.
  7. ICU BED OCCUPANCY: This indicator looks at regional data for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 use of ICU beds. A county is flagged for this indicator when the regional ICU occupancy goes above 80% for at least three of the last seven days.

Ohio’s new alert levels are as follows:

ALERT LEVEL 1 (YELLOW): A county has triggered zero or one of the seven indicators, and there is active exposure and spread. Today, Ohio has 53 counties at Alert Level 1. The majority of these counties are seeing a moderate number of cases, according to the CDC’s definition.

ALERT LEVEL 2 (ORANGE): A county has triggered two or three of the seven indicators and there is increased risk of exposure and spread. Ohio has 28 counties in this category. These counties are seeing cases that are growing in the community in the last two weeks.

ALERT LEVEL 3 (RED): A county has triggered four or five of the seven indicators and there is very high exposure and spread. As of Thursday afternoon, seven counties are at Level 3 (Red) across Ohio. Those counties include Trumbull, Huron, Montgomery, Butler, Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Franklin. Risk is very high. Ohioans should limit activities as much as possible. Wear a mask when you go out.

ALERT LEVEL 4 (PURPLE): A county has triggered six to seven of the indicators, and there is severe exposure and spread. Stay home as much as possible. No counties are currently at Level 4 (Purple).*

** Data WLWT & Ohio Department of Health

The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal is the ninth and current bishop of Southern Ohio.