DOVER, Ohio — Area health officials are warning that we are not completely of the woods when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic and stressed there new concerns about the Delta variant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Delta COVID-19 strain now accounts for more than 50% of recent cases across the U.S. and the variant is extremely infectious.
According to Dr. Cody Turner, the chief medical officer for Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital in Dover, the number of COVID-19 patients across the clinic's health system is under 100, the lowest number this year.
However, Turner also pointed out that in the most recent positive cases, about 50% have proven to be the Delta variant.
"We would expect to see those continue to grow at this point. That's kind of consistent across the country at this point. However, the vaccines are effective," he said.
Dr. Turner said getting more people vaccinated is crucial in order to prevent future hospitalizations, illness and deaths.
"I'm also an ICU doctor, I practice critical care medicine, and at this point, far and away the vast majority of patients that we're still seeing hospitalized are patients that have not been vaccinated," Turner said.
Ann Kaser, the director of nursing at the Tuscarawas County Health Department, also worries about variants in a county that has a vaccination rate of only 35%. She said only one Delta variant case has been confirmed in the county so far.
"I think it's very important that we get this information out, not just about the concern with the Delta variant, but the fact that we're not done yet. Yes, we've rounded a corner. Yes, we are seeing some decline in our county which is awesome. However, we know it's not done yet," Kaser said.
According to Kaser, there have been 8,675 COVID-19 case, 668 hospitalizations, 252 deaths and 8,372 people presumed recovered during the pandemic in Tuscarawas County.
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows 74% of unvaccinated Americans say they probably or definitely will not get a vaccine.
Health officials added that vaccine hesitancy remains a big issue among people who fear the shots are not safe. Kaser feels changing that mindset in important, especially with the uncertainty over variants.
"We're trying diligently to try to get that information out, try to bust those myths that are out there and hopefully ease some minds and have those conversations. We would love to have those conversations," she said.
Kaser said the virus impacted her family as well. Her husband, Steve, has struggled to recover after contracting the virus in January.
"He's still on oxygen at night. He still has the chest congestion, the severe fatigue, so even my own family, we're dealing with it."