Ohio health officials announced on Thursday that due to declining COVID-19 numbers, the state will switch from daily to weekly publication of data on the virus.

During a news conference streamed by the Ohio Department of Health, ODH Director Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, announced that numbers on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, including information about long-term care facilities, will only be updated on Thursdays.

Noting that the per capita COVID transmission risk rate has dropped to an average of 78 cases per 100,000 people throughout the state, Vanderhoff said Ohio continues evolving from a pandemic to an endemic status.

According to the CDC, an epidemic refers to an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.  A pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting many people.

Dr. Vanderhoff says the state will continue to monitor COVID cases and the only change will be the frequency in which the information will be made public.

According to Vanderhoff, the change in frequency to align the state with the Centers for Disease Control which late last month moved away from daily numbers as the main criteria for COVID risk.

The CDC’s new framework is designed to determine whether the level of COVID 19 and severe disease in communities are low, medium, or high.

The new guide moves beyond just looking at cases and test positivity to evaluate factors that reflect the severity of disease, including hospitalizations and hospital capacity.

The CDC looks at the combination of three metrics — new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days — to determine the COVID-19 community level.

Of Ohio’s 88 counties, ten are still considered to have High-risk levels.  The risk in 17 counties is at Medium levels.

Sixty-one Ohio counties, including Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana Counties have low levels of risk.

According to the latest CDC guidelines, people living in areas with low levels are advised to stay up to date with COVID vaccines and get tested if they have symptoms.

Although those guidelines are less strict for people living in areas with medium and high levels, Vanderhoff said that people who are considered to be at higher risk may still consider wearing masks when among members of the public in indoor spaces.

Dr. Vanderhoff also announced that the school will no longer be required to report positive COVID cases to local health officials unless the school has verified a positive case through its own testing.

The state’s Mask to Stay and Test to Play recommendations remain in effect.

Noting that weather is changing, and more people can spend time outdoors, Vanderhoff cautioned against becoming complacent.

Dr. Vanderhoff said the state had previously seen lulls in COVID cases, only to be followed by surges.

He reminded people to make sure they are fully vaccinated and that communities keep an eye on COVID indicators using tools such as wastewater testing.