Why does Ohio have such a low coronavirus infection rate?

  • Ohio had an early response and strict enforcement
  • The state has comparably lower cases and deaths than other states
  • Ohio’s peak may have already passed

Long before much of the rest of the country was taking COVID-19 seriously, Ohio was preparing for the virus to reach its borders. The landlocked state began preparations as early as Feb. 26, shutting down large gatherings and beginning to prepare for a spike in cases. The state’s early response is beginning to pay off, as the gap between its reported cases and those of comparably-sized states continues to grow. 

Ohio’s early start can serve as an example of how to prepare for an outbreak of this sort. The state’s early identification of the risk posed by COVID-19, along with its serious approach to preparation and careful, straightforward communication with the public, made a massive difference in how the virus spread. As a result, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, as of April 10, was enjoying an 80% approval rating among his constituents. By mid-May, it had jumped to 86%.

When compared to three similarly-sized states—Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Illinois—Ohio’s status is solid. The state had 38,476 positive cases and 2,377 deaths as of June 7. Michigan, which has a slightly smaller population, had 64,413 cases and 5,895 deaths. Pennsylvania and Illinois had 75,592 and 127,757 cases, respectively, with 5,943 and 5,904 deaths. 

Projections indicate that the state might already be past Ohio’s peak need for medical equipment. Data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) pointed to an April 8 peak and did not anticipate any shortages for hospitals in the state. The IHME adjusted early projections that anticipated far higher daily deaths to show the lower than anticipated infection and death rate. Research from Ohio State University disagrees and instead points to the end of April as a likely peak. Those projections indicated that Ohio’s peak wouldn’t hit until April 25.

The outbreak of an infectious disease can be difficult to track, which may mean that the state is merely delaying a harsher outbreak. If it continues to respect the danger COVID-19 poses, however, the state is on track to come out of the other side relatively unscathed, quite possibly due to its proactivity before the virus began affecting the rest of the country.

“You’ve got to make these decisions early. Early means early,” DeWine told the Washington Post in early April. “Every day you wait, you create a bigger problem.”

Sources: IHME, Washington Post, Fox 8, Live Science, Dayton Daily News, FiveThirtyEight

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