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Valley counties in middle of state for COVID cases

While Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana saw significant increases in COVID-19 cases, the three counties are still ranked in the middle of Ohio’s counties for cases per 100,000 because much of the rest of the state saw an even bigger jump.

This is according to the Ohio Department of Health’s latest ranking of counties for COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents — and greatly differs from statistics recently released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC numbers were for the seven days from July 19 to Sunday, while the ODH figures are for a two-week period between July 14 and Wednesday.

Complicating things are numbers released July 19 by the ODH, which included a number of old cases that disproportionately impacted Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

The ODH called it a “technical issue that prevented a small number of cases from being counted over the past several weeks.”

Of the 660 total cases reported July 19, including about 240 old ones, Mahoning had 122 cases, Trumbull had 62 and Columbiana had 66 cases. That meant almost 38 percent of all cases in the state were in the three counties, which would be extraordinarily unusual if it were accurate.

Of those 62 cases in Trumbull, 59 were old ones “primarily from physicians’ offices and medical facilities,” said Johnna Ben, a spokeswoman for the Trumbull County Combined Health District.

“However,” she added, “that should not overshadow the fact that Trumbull County is seeing a rapid rise in cases.”

Similar issues occurred in Mahoning and Columbiana.

The CDC showed Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana among 23 Ohio counties considered to be high or substantial COVID-19 transmission areas with a recommendation for everyone, including those vaccinated, to wear face masks indoors.

With July 19 no longer included in the CDC count, a map updated Thursday, for the time between July 21 and Tuesday, shows all three counties at a moderate risk. A day earlier, Columbiana was at high transmission while Trumbull and Mahoning were listed as having substantial transmission. All three counties now have cases per 100,000 below 50, according to the CDC.

Ryan Tekac, Mahoning County health commissioner, said the substantial transmission listing was based on a “reporting error.”

He said most of the cases reported July 19 in Mahoning dated back to March, April, May and June.

“We’re currently not seeing a high amount of spread in Mahoning County,” Tekac said.

The delta variant among the unvaccinated, which spreads quickly, is largely to blame for the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the state, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, ODH’s chief medical officer, said.

The state saw its COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents jump to 77.4 this week compared to 45.8 last week and 27 two weeks ago.

The latest ODH ranking by county has Mahoning at 56th among the state’s 88 counties with 59.9 cases per 100,000 residents. It was 54th last week, but with only 33.7 cases per 100,000 residents. It was also 54th two weeks ago with 21.4 cases per 100,000.

Trumbull moved up to 46th this week with 67.7 cases per 100,000 from 58th last week when it had 31.3 cases per 100,000. It was 61st two weeks ago with 19.7 cases.

Columbiana went to 42nd this week with 72.6 cases per 100,000 residents, down from 39th last week with 43.2 cases. It was 70th two weeks ago with 17.7 cases.

The ODH measures cases per 100,000 residents to provide a fair comparison among counties because total case numbers would result in more-populous counties ranking higher.

Reporter Ed Runyan contributed to this report.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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