Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish speaks at the COVID-19 press briefing Sept. 18.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish started the county’s virtual COVID-19 media briefing Sept. 18 with a message about the Jewish new year.

“I want to start off today by acknowledging that today at sundown, Jews all the over world celebrate Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year. This year, I am so very grateful that those I love are healthy and safe, and that my wife, Amy, and I are actually going to be able to gather with my son and his partner this evening for the first time in months.

“This COVID crisis shines a light on what matters most – our loved ones, our health and our safety and security. Rosh Hashanah is all about looking forward and I know we all hope for a better year and better future.

“Traditionally, the foods we serve represent these wishes. My wife, Amy, has spent most of the week cooking. I’ll tell you the house sure smells good when I get home. This year she’s serving turkey with a pomegranate gravy. It’s said that each pomegranate has 613 seeds. Each one, a symbol of good acts to do for others, or mitzvahs. So, the expectations are high. I take this obligation seriously. In fact, it’s why I entered public service in the first place, to do good and help people.”

As more schools prepare to reopen in the coming weeks, Dr. Johnie Rose, assistant professor, Center for Community Health Integration, and director, Preventive Medicine Residency at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, discussed recommendations school leaders will be following.

He has been working with them to provide a framework to use that will balance the risks of COVID-19 with the need to return to school.

Rose said they will use a four-scenario framework, which is tied to the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. Cuyahoga County remains in orange Level 2 for the fifth consecutive week.

His recommendations are as follows:

• Level 4 (purple): Students should be learning at home.

• Level 3 (red): Less than 10% test positivity in the community and school be conducted virtually, except for those who have special education needs.

• Level 2 (orange): Schools should start considering hybrid learning models, small cohorts, staggered schedules and at-home virtual learning. Extracurricular activities with the lowest risk can be held.

• Level 1 (yellow): Schools can consider more in-person learning and cohorts don’t have to be small. More extracurricular activities should be permitted.

“Risk scenario one is where hope to be soon,” Rose said. “Thing we have really learned about this is what matters in the schools is the mitigation measures they can take and the amount of COVID circulation that is happening in their community.”

Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan said as of Sept. 17, there were 16,907 cases of COVID-19 reported in Cuyahoga County, not including the city of Cleveland. Of those cases, 2,533 people have required hospitalization and 638 have died since March.

He also urged everyone to get flu shot this year.

Board of Health Medical Director Dr. Heidi Gullett said Cuyahoga County saw 529 new cases of COVID-19 and 30 deaths this week.

She said there have been 11,736 cases cumulative since start of the pandemic, 1,187 required hospitalization and 534 deaths. She said there were just under 50 cases on average per day this past week and the range of deaths is from 31 years old to 104 years old.

Out of 18,550 COVID-19 tests run between Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and University Hospitals from Sept. 9 to Sept. 15, Gullett said 3.4% were positive.

“We are pleased that our percent positivity remains low again,” Gullett said.

Budish also spoke about the U.S. Census, saying getting an accurate count is “so incredibly important.”

“For every person who doesn’t complete the census, the county loses more than $1,000 per month,” he said.

Budish also announced the Cuyahoga County’s Witness Victim Service Center, administered by the Department of Public Safety and Justice Services, has been awarded a grant of $824,800.33 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, for its Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Initiative to expand services throughout Cuyahoga County over a three-year period.

“The Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention program has helped thousands of our residents in need, and Cuyahoga County’s Witness Victim Service Center advocates work tirelessly to ensure victim safety is prioritized and that victim rights are upheld,” he said.

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