The Columbus Dispatch

Current COVID surge putting ‘dangerous strain’ on hospitals

- Titus Wu

Health officials made their plea once again for Ohioans to get vaccinated, as the state is seeing more COVID-19 cases and hospitaliz­ations as the end of the year nears.

“Our COVID-19 hospitaliz­ations continue to be driven largely by unvaccinat­ed Ohioans,” said Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

In recent weeks, Ohio has reported several days of more than 8,000 COVID-19 cases, some of the highest levels since September’s fall peak fueled by the delta variant.

Hospitaliz­ations have also become concerning, especially in northeast Ohio, Vanderhoff said.

More than 4,000 people are currently hospitaliz­ed with COVID-19 and that number is rising. The last time there were more hospitaliz­ations was Jan. 12, during last year’s winter peak of cases when vaccines were just becoming available.

In fact, national outlets have reported that Ohio is one of six states accounting for more than half of the country’s recent hospitaliz­ation surge.

Ohio and nearby Pennsylvan­ia, Michigan, Indiana, New York and Illinois made up 35% of the population among states with increasing COVID-19 hospitaliz­ations, they make up 60% of the increased COVID-19 patients, an NBC analysis showed.

Part of the problem is that the area around the Great Lakes is experienci­ng more cold weather, driving people indoors, Vanderhoff said. Currently, Ohio is the 16th least vaccinated state, per Johns Hopkins University data.

It’s “putting a dangerous strain on the state’s health care system,” said Vanderhoff, calling this surge “every bit as serious” as previous surges.

The problem is especially acute in the northern part of the state, he said, where roughly 62% of newly reported hospitaliz­ations are occurring. Hospitals are having to limit patient visits, divert patients to far-away hospitals or accept only patients meeting a certain level of criteria.

Hospitaliz­ation rates are 35% to 40% higher and death rates are 94% higher for counties below the state’s vaccinatio­n rate – currently 58.5% for the first shot – compared to counties above it.

Vanderhoff advised Ohioans to go get tested before gathering for the holidays. So far, the newly discovered omicron variant has not been located in the state, but it’s important to get vaccinated ahead of the variant’s discovery in Ohio.

“It’s only a matter of when, not if,” he said.

Titus Wu is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizati­ons across Ohio.

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