State set to get new public health director as cases in younger Ohioans continue to rise

Ohio will have a new, permanent state health director after the resignation of Dr. Amy Acton in June. Ohio native Dr. Joan Duwve, a North Olmsted High School and Ohio State University graduate, will take over the position from interim director Lance Himes beginning in October, Gov. Mike DeWine announced at his Thursday, Sept. 10, coronavirus update.

Duwve was the South Carolina director of public health and formerly served in the medical and public health departments in Indiana under then-governor and now Vice President Mike Pence. She graduated from Johns Hopkins medical school.

“Dr. Duwve shares my passion for and commitment to children’s issues and other pressing public health issues, including substance abuse, lead paint awareness, suicide prevention, smoking cessation and injury prevention,” DeWine said.

Acton stepped down from her position in June and left state government in August after receiving praise and criticism for how she and the governor assessed and reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeWine cautioned that “social gatherings” continue to be the main source of the spread of COVID-19, as several colleges and universities shut down in-person classes and other cases are traced to fraternal clubs around Ohio.

According to the state’s public health advisory system, as of Thursday, there were six counties designated red level 3, which indicates very high exposure and spread. Summit County was among the six, moving up from last week from orange level 2.

One of the sources of new cases in Summit County came from an unnamed “fraternal club,” DeWine pointed out.

“Two people who visited a fraternal club, not knowing they were contagious, caused the spread to employees, other club members and family members,” he said. “A total of 12 people tested positive (from ages 29 – 81 years old), four of them were hospitalized and two are seriously ill.”

“Out-of-class gatherings” are in part the cause for schools like Wittenberg University in Springfield to pause in-person classed for at least two weeks, the school’s president, Dr. Michael Frandsen, said.

Wittenberg has seen a surge of 76 new cases in the last week, he said.

“If you look at the cases so far in September, there is a significant rise in the number of cases between the ages of 20 to 29 years old,” DeWine said. In August, more than 22% of new cases were in that age range and nearly 34% of all new cases in September fall into that group as of Thursday.

With a positivity rate around 4%, Ohio has a much lower community spread than Alabama, Kansas, North and South Dakota, which are all above 15% triggering a travel advisory warning Ohioans not to travel to or from those areas.

The Sept. 10 report from the Ohio Department of Health indicates the state has 127,106 confirmed and 6,980 probable cases of COVID-19, for a total of 134,086. That’s an increase day-over-day of 1,121 new cases. Of those, 14,164 people have been hospitalized (increase of 81) and 3,070 of them in intensive care (increase of 16). There have been 4,009 confirmed deaths in Ohio and 289 probable related deaths, for a total of 4,354 fatalities in the state (increase of 30).

The state has tested a total of 2,483,371 people as of Sept. 8 and, with 18,847 positive test, has a 4.4% positivity rate.

DeWine, Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted all received a flu shot during the beginning of the coronavirus update as the governor urged all Ohioans to do the same.

“While the flu can be deadly on its own, we are also concerned that Ohioans who get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time could become severely, if not fatally, ill,” DeWine said. “Anyone who can get a vaccinated against the flu should do so.”

Husted also stressed the importance of getting a flu vaccine early in the season in part to “free up” the supply chain for when a COVID-19 vaccine is available.


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