CLEVELAND, Ohio — Several central Ohio counties are seeing increases in coronavirus infections that appear to be linked to people traveling from other states, Gov. Mike DeWine said.
Delaware and Union counties, just north of Columbus, have each reported COVID-19 infections that officials believe to be the result of travel outside Ohio, DeWine said during Thursday’s coronavirus briefing. Those who tested positive had recently traveled to Arizona, Florida and North Carolina.
“Local [Delaware County] officials also note a number of travelers who have contracted the virus, they think, while in Florida, and coming back from Florida,” DeWine said.
Southern U.S. states have seen coronavirus infections skyrocket recently. Florida reported more than 15,000 new cases in a single day on Sunday, and reported its highest 24-hour total of 156 deaths on Thursday. Arizona and Texas are also among the states seeing a surge of hospitalizations and ICU admissions over the last few weeks.
Delaware County, which has 174,000 residents, has reported 233 cases over the last two weeks. That’s more than the entire country of Ireland, with a population of 4.9 million, has reported over the same time period, DeWine said.
Union County has seen daily case averages quadruple over the last three weeks, DeWine said. He attributed the spike to travel outside of Ohio, as well as to adjacent counties.
“Union County has experienced new cases due to travel outside Ohio, including to Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, as well as routine travel to and from neighboring counties,” DeWine said.
Both counties were added Thursday to Ohio’s list of those at red-alert for the virus. In red-alert counties, including Cuyahoga County, residents must wear face masks in public spaces to help limit the spread of the virus. Roughly 60 percent of Ohio residents will be required to wear face masks by Friday evening because they live in red-alert counties, DeWine said.
Ohio reported 1,290 new coronavirus cases and 28 more deaths on Thursday, and has seen infections rise over the last few weeks. DeWine held a news conference Wednesday to urge Ohio residents to take “immediate action” to slow the rising number of infections across the state.