COVID-19 cases continue to drop, but levels of transmission are still elevated for most of Ohio

A map of Ohio shows levels of transmission by county.
There are seven counties in Northeast Ohio where COVID-19 transmission has fallen to the moderate levels, CDC data show. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

COVID-19 case numbers are dropping fast in Ohio and many people are exhausted after more than two years of pandemic mask requirements and social distancing. Some are stepping out or returning to their former routines without masks.

But state health officials said, during a press conference Thursday, the public should consider the levels of virus transmission in their area when making decisions about going out and masking up. Another key factor when making the decision is whether they or their loved ones are at increased risk of getting really sick from the virus.

“While many of us are tired of wearing a mask until COVID-19 cases drop a little further in most parts of the state, we should mask in crowded indoor spaces,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Along with a decrease in case numbers, the levels of transmission have also dropped in some parts of the state.

Although Cuyahoga County is still at a substantial rate of spread, seven counties – all in Northeast Ohio – have fallen to moderate transmission rates: Geauga, Holmes, Lake, Ottawa, Sandusky, Stark and Summit, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

This means that in those counties the number of new cases reported per 100,000 residents was between 10 and 49.99 and the rate of tests that came back positive for the virus was between 5% and 7.99%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC).

That’s welcome news, said Vanderhoff. But the rest of the state is still seeing substantial and high levels of transmission, and, although case numbers are falling rapidly, there are no counties in Ohio that currently meet the CDC’s criteria for low levels of COVID-19 transmission.

Vanderhoff said that means that masking and staying up to date on your vaccine and booster is still very important – especially for those who have risk factors that make it more likely they’d be hit hard by the virus. That includes the elderly, those living in congregate care settings like nursing homes, people whose immune systems are compromised and those with chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity and current or past smokers.

“We need to remember that [COVID-19] may fade, but it will be back,” said Vanderhoff, adding that getting vaccinated and staying up-to-date on the recommended number of boosters is the most reliable defense against the virus.

You can check the level of transmission in your county, using the CDC's COVID County Check. You can also see the transmission levels across the state and the country here

CDC community transmission levels criteria:

The CDC categorizes areas as having low, moderate, substantial or high levels of transmission based on the number of new cases reported over the past seven days per 100,000 residents and the percent of tests that are positive for the virus.

  • High – 100 or more new cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of 10% or greater
  • Substantial – Between 50 and 99.99 new cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of between 8% and 9.99%
  • Moderate – Between 10 and 49.99 new cases per capita and a test positivity rate of between 5% and 7.99%
  • Low – Fewer than 10 new cases per capita and a test positivity rate of less than 5%

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