Coronavirus: Mercer County tops Ohio list for community spread

Coronavirus: Mercer County tops Ohio list for community spread

MERCER COUNTY — Three counties in the News Center 7 viewing area, including two rural counties, rank in the top ten worst places for community spread of COVID-19 in Ohio, according to data released week by state leaders.

Governor Mike DeWine unveiled new numbers that show number of coronavirus cases in the previous two weeks, adjusted for population – specifically, cases per 100,000 residents.

Mercer County tops the list in Ohio with 230.4 cases per 100,000 residents between July 21 and Aug. 3.

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Champaign County ranks sixth on the list with 131.2 cases per 100,000 residents, and Montgomery County is tenth with 111.7 cases per 100,000 residents.

“Unfortunately, (our ranking) wasn’t a huge surprise,” said Jason Menchhofer, administrator, Mercer County Health District Thursday. Menchhofer pointed to outbreaks at workplaces and one where three events tied to a recent weekend funeral led to more than 40 positive cases.

“The majority of people aren’t getting seriously ill here, so I think that tends to make people relax and not think as much about taking those precautions,” he said.

Gov. DeWine said Tuesday, this per capita ranking system will not replace the state’s color coded alert system.

However, he said it does serve as another way to flag community spread in counties where the overall numbers might appear smaller. For instance, Mercer County in the last two weeks saw COVID cases, compared to 594 in Montgomery County. This ranking accounts for Montgomery County having more than 13 times the population of Mercer County.

DeWine said this will be an important measurement as districts weigh returning to in-person classes.

“What is going on in the community as far as community spread will directly impact what is going on in the school,” DeWine said, “Because the kids are obviously coming out of that universe, so if you are see widespread community spread, you will in all likelihood see wide spread within that school.”