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Hamilton County Reports Positive Signs Concerning COVID-19


Hamilton County's health commissioner said Wednesday he's seen several positive indicators as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Greg Kesterman said during a press briefing that includes more people wearing masks. He said as he's been out in the community, he's seen "very few people not wearing their masks."

Kesterman also said the data on the virus is improving and shows the number of new cases declining.  Since last Wednesday, the number of new positive cases increased by 613. That compares to 841 announced last week.

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 remains elevated, but it has started to decline.  Kesterman called the number of people in intensive care unit beds "nothing alarming and manageable."

There's also positive news related to the disease's reproductive number in the county and the Southwest Ohio region.

"If we are above one, we continue to see the outbreak expand, if we fall below one, we continue to see the outbreak contract," Kesterman said. "So today we are at 0.84 for Hamilton County. And when you look at the 14-county region, we are at 0.91. These are both very positive indicators that we're doing some things right here in Hamilton County."

He expects the county to remain "red" when the state releases its updated COVID-19 advisory map Thursday.

"Our emergency department (visits) over the last five days, it's been tracking where we would expect it to, we're not seeing any great increases," Kesterman said. "Similarly, for hospitalizations, over the last five days, things look good with regards to hospitalizations, and then our hospital capacity over the last five days has remained under 80%."

Kesterman said residents need to keep working on social distancing, and to be careful around friends and family. He said families can still have gatherings, but they should perhaps be outside with six feet of spacing between people.

He was also asked whether he thought Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine would close bars and limit indoor restaurant capacity like steps taken by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear Monday. Kesterman said he doesn't know what the Ohio governor will do, but DeWine did indicate he may have more to say about that Thursday.

Kesterman said the more local businesses do to make themselves safe, and make the public feel safe, the better off the county will be heading into the fall months.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County has now posted a dashboard on its website with information on how CARES Act money the county received from the federal government is being spent.

Chart showing how Hamilton County has allocated federal CARES Act funding related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit Provided / Hamilton County
Hamilton County
Chart showing how Hamilton County has allocated federal CARES Act funding related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far about $136 million of the funds have been allocated to different programs leaving about $6 million to $7 million as needs come forward.

The county is still working with local federal lawmakers on how those funds can be spent and when.

"We are going to have this virus in our community for a longer period of time while we wait for a vaccine to come online," said County Commission President Denise Driehaus. "And so, we may need some extra time, we'll likely need some extra time, to get these dollars out the door."

Driehaus also said the county is talking with federal representatives about priorities in the next coronavirus spending package that's being debated in Washington right now.

"What we have asked them for is additional dollars to address the needs; flexibility with those dollars so that we can meet the needs; and an extended timeframe, so that in the case that we are not able to expend the dollars by the end of the year, we can go into next year," Driehaus said.

Driehaus said the county was able to assist more than 200 small businesses with grants using CARES dollars, and right now officials are working on the guidelines for a second round of grants for small businesses.

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Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.