Ohio is headed into winter already in a COVID surge, says state's top doctor

Cars line up at the Ohio Fairgrounds to receive free COVD tests
Cars line up at the Ohio Fairgrounds to receive free COVD tests. [Daniel Konik / Statehouse News Bureau]
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The Ohio Department of Health is pushing the message that vaccines are the best way to beat COVID as they worry about what’s ahead.

Case numbers and hospitalizations are up in the last few weeks, and nearly 5,200 people in Ohio have been reported to have died of COVID-19 in the last two months.

ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says there’s no way to predict what the next few months will hold.

“We are headed into the winter with very high levels of disease transmission, and over the last couple of weeks, a definite upturn in the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations," Vanderhoff said. "So essentially, we’re heading into the winter already in a surge.”

But Vanderhoff said communities with high vaccination rates are seeing much lower virus activity rates, so he says there’s hope.

Just under 56% of Ohioans over age five are fully vaccinated.

ODH reports 36,938 unvaccinated Ohioans have been hospitalized since January 1 of this year. And that number has more than doubled since July 27. There's also been a ten-fold increase in hospitalizations among vaccinated people in the last four months.

11,647 unvaccinated Ohioans have died of COVID since the start of the year. But nearly half of those deaths were reported in the past four months. And of the 543 vaccinated Ohioans have died this calendar year, over 93% of breakthrough COVID deaths this year were reported after July 27.

Last week, Republican representatives passed a bill that would ban COVID vaccine mandates, vaccine exemptions and proof of vaccination status or "vaccine passports". But that bill is considered unlikely to move forward in the Senate or, if it does, to be signed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Tuesday he is signing onto a lawsuit by more than a dozen states against a COVID vaccine requirement by Medicaid and Medicare for health care workers.

Yost's decision to join the lawsuit over the Medicare/Medicaid vaccine requirement is the latest action his office has taken against the Biden administration. He's also filed suits over the "vaccine-or-test" requirement for companies with more than 100 workers and for federal contractors.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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