JEFFERSON — Ashtabula County’s COVID-19 situation has started to move in the wrong direction.

Ashtabula County Health Commissioner Ray Saporito said the county has a higher COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 people than it had several weeks ago.

The county’s number of cases per capita is still lower than the state average, he said.

“We’re seeing increases all across the state, in general,” Saporito said.

On the state’s Public Health Advisory System map, Ashtabula County dropped from red, the second highest alert level on the map, to orange  in mid-March for the first time since October. Since then, the county has remained in orange on the map, but that could change, Saporito said.

“When you have these increases that we’re talking about, you know, that could put us right back into a red category,” he said.

Per the county’s COVID-19 situation report, released on Thursday, a total of 6,257 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ashtabula County since the start of the pandemic. There have been 503 hospitalizations caused by COVID-19 and 174 people have died.

The county’s test positivity rate increased to 5.83 percent, from 3.53 percent, according to the report.

“So I don’t want to sound all gloom and doom, but I think right now, to be honest about it, it’s a very delicate time,” Saporito said.

There are a large amount of people getting vaccinated, which is good news, he said.

The county health department’s vaccine clinics have been going well, Saporito said. According to the Ohio Department of Health, 26,810 people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, around 27.5 percent of the county’s population.

To reach herd immunity levels, between 70 and 85 percent of people will have to be vaccinated or have immunity from having COVID-19, Saporito said. For other diseases that are less contagious than COVID-19, the percentage required for herd immunity can be lower, Saporito said.

“This is so transmissible, the numbers must be higher,” Saporito said.

Saporito said wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands are still important steps to take.

“We still need to be cautious,” he said.

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