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COVID cases in Ohio are in decline, but remain at a high level

Sgt. Justin Martin COVID-19 tests CAS Ohio Army National Guard
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Staff Sgt. Justin Martin is helping to process COVID-19 tests and swab patients at the COVID-19 testing site at CAS.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said COVID case numbers and hospitalizations are down but there’s still a big threat to public safety when you consider where the state stands right now.

Vanderhoff said the state’s hospitalization rate is down to 18%, with the Northern part seeing bigger declines than the Southern portion. Because of that, he said more than a third of the 2,000 Ohio National Guard members have been released from serving at hospitals and testing sites.

“As of Tuesday, the number of guard members deployed across Ohio had declined to about 1,200 serving at 28 hospitals and 12 testing centers,” he said.

However, Vanderhoff warns COVID is still a high risk in Ohio since caseloads are five times the number identified as high by the CDC. Some Ohio counties are up to 20 times higher.

"While there is no doubt we are quickly moving in the right direction, it's simply too early for us to declare victory given the reality that thousands of Ohioans are still being diagnosed with COVID-19 each and every day," he said.

Hospitals are continuing to treat mostly unvaccinated COVID patients, Vanderhoff said. Ohioans should get vaccinated if they haven't already, he said. Right now, stats from the Ohio Department of Health show a little more than 60% of eligible Ohioans, those 5-years-old and older, have been fully vaccinated.

Vanderhoff also urges Ohioans to get booster shots. He said getting them on time gives people the best protection against COVID. As of Thursday, 6.6 million Ohioans who are fully vaccinated, 3.3 million Ohioans have received a booster shot.

Dr. Ken Gordon of the Cleveland Clinic said the booster shots have been shown to make a measurable difference in preventing deaths overall, especially in older Ohioans. He said immuno-compromised people should get boosters every four months and everyone else should get them every five months, per CDC guidelines.

A recent Cleveland Clinic study shows those who got booster shots had significantly more protection against infection, Gordon said. The booster shots have been shown to make a measurable difference in preventing deaths overall, especially in older Ohioans, he said. Immuno-compromised people should get boosters every four months and everyone else should get them every five months, Gordan said.

Vanderhoff warns new variants will be coming in the future.

He also notes more children have been hospitalized with the omicron variant. It's important for kids to get vaccinated, Vanderhoff said, who expects the CDC will soon allow vaccinations for children under 5-years-old. Across the state, 3,800 vaccine providers are preparing to vaccinate these kids once vaccines are available, Vanderhoff said

The health department agency is going to put a new dashboard on its website to help make sure Ohioans and medical professionals who want information about where to get therapeutics and preventive medicines that have been FDA approved to treat the virus.

“The dashboard will include a map. It will be searchable. And it will be able to be filtered by city, county and zip code. And that dashboard will be updated every week," Vanderhoff said.

The dashboard is expected to be up and running sometime next week.
Many school districts throughout Ohio that had mask requirements have been relaxing those as the COVID situation improves. But Vanderhoff warns against that. While it is up to local communities to make choices for their students, it's important that masks still be worn indoors and in crowded spaces, he said.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.