Gov. Mike DeWine says the state is already seeing an increase of of COVID-19 cases as schools and colleges bring students back to campus.
"Schools are going to have positive cases because they're in the community, and they reflect the community," DeWine said at his coronavirus briefing Tuesday.
The Ohio Department of Health on Tuesday reported 1,453 new COVID-19 cases in the last day, the largest single-day increase since the end of July. DeWine said the return of students to colleges and grade schools is thought to be the reason behind the surge.
"This is a stark reminder that the virus is not going away," DeWine said.
The governor says he believes school and university administrators prepared well for resuming in-person classes during the pandemic, and thanked colleges for undertaking significant coronavirus testing efforts.
Running through a list of effective school responses, DeWine highlighted one particular case in Canton where two football players contracted COVID-19. He says the school district notified the county health department, which quarantined five people who had close contact with the students. As a result of the school's quick actions, the coronavirus outbreak was limited to just those two players.
"Life is full of tradeoffs," DeWine said. "And if we want our kids in schools, which we do, playing athletics, which we do… then the way to do that is for us to slow this spread down."
A public health order requiring schools to notify parents and health departments of COVID-19 cases, which DeWine previewed last week, will be released in the next few days. The governor says parents have the right to know if their children have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19, or if someone in their children's building tested positive. The order will also require the Ohio Department of Health to issue a public report on cases in schools once a week.
DeWine also invited two college students to talk about their experiences returning to campus. Ohio State University student Anand Shah says he's seeing "a level of perserverence, hope and optimism" among the student body, and says the campus has come together to wear masks and observe social distancing.
"Day by day, I think there's a greater and greater recognition that the ability for our campus to stay open, and the ability for our campus to stay healthy, is in the hands of the students," Shah said.
As of August 29, Ohio State reports that 495 students and 16 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. New Ohio State president Kristina Johnson sent an email last week warning that the school's positivity rate had tripled following the first few days of classes, and that students and staff must better contain the spread of the virus if they want to remain on campus.
The school recently issued over 220 interim suspensions to students for attending off-campus parties, as part of a crackdown on gatherings of more than 10 people.
DeWine said he spoke with Johnson about the issue over the weekend.
"Let's hope students at Ohio State... recognize that their ability to stay on campus, their ability to stay in class, is solely, collectively within their own hands," DeWine said. "They control that."
Nicholas Juan-Xavier Boes, the undergraduate president at Bowling Green State University, says the campus has a lot fewer students than normal but praised his school for its constant communication.
"It's been a constant reassurance that us students are first in mind," he said.
On August 24, Bowling Green announced that five students had tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to campus.
Areas Of Concern
On Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported an increase of 27 more deaths, 103 hospitalizations and 14 ICU admissions in the last day. That brings the state's cumulative number of coronavirus cases to 124,610, and total deaths to 4,165.
Putnam, Darke, Jackson, Meigs, Mercer, Henry, Shelby, Butler, Montgomery and Auglaize counties are currently showing the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. DeWine mentioned that in Putnam, 10 coronavirus cases have been connected to a large golf outing on August 21.
"Again, we're seeing a real movement into our rural areas," DeWine said.
The governor says he spoke on Monday with Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials, who expressed concern about the upcoming Labor Day weekend. DeWine says that the state sees more cases anytime there is a boom in activity - such as the July 4 holiday, which resulted in many new COVID-19 cases traced to family gatherings.
"We can get together, we can have fun, but we have to be very, very careful," DeWine said.
DeWine emphasized that it can take a week or two for people to develop COVID-19 symptoms, but that people can spread the virus without being symptomatic.