COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s COVID-19 case rate rose slightly this week, pushing the state further away from the threshold required to lift the mask mandate. 

Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday there are 146.9 cases per 100,000 people in the state, which is an increase from the 143.8:100,000 case ratio last week. DeWine said the state won’t lift its mask mandate until there are 50 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks straight. 

Along with the increase in cases, some counties that fell into Yellow Alert Level 1 last week on the state’s Public Advisory System are now back into Orange Alert Level 2. The state’s four-level system measures COVID-19 spread, with yellow indicating low transmission rates and purple noting the highest. 

Auglaize County reported the biggest difference, jumping from yellow to red within a week. Meigs, Mercer, Shelby and Vinton counties went from yellow to orange. Holmes and Van Wert are the only counties left in yellow. 

Right now, there are 55 counties in Red Alert Level 3, which is the lowest number of red counties the state has seen since Oct. 29. 

Eight counties dropped down from red to orange: Brown, Columbiana, Coshocton, Fulton, Lawrence and Logan. 

DeWine said the state is seeing cases and hospitalizations plateau. Ohio reported 1,501 new cases and 67 hospitalizations in the last 24 hours. The total number of statewide cases stands at 1,006,171. 

Because of the plateau, Ohio Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff joined DeWine in urging Ohioans not to embrace spring fever. 

“We have to recognize that we are not at that finish line yet. States all around us are seeing an upswing in cases,” Vanderhoff said. 

Vanderhoff went along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in urging residents not to travel, but if they do, they should be vaccinated and wear a mask wherever they go. 

“We’re in the final stretch of this marathon,” Vanderhoff said.