CLEVELAND — Ohio has made a top 10 list and it's not one to brag about.
As of Thursday, the Buckeye State ranks No. 2 for the daily average of hospitalizations and No. 7 nationwide for the daily average number of cases over the last week, according to Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. Additionally, Ohio is ranked No. 4 for daily average of deaths over the last seven days.
Today, the Ohio Department of Health reported 19,774 cases, up from the 21-day average of 11,166. Nearly 500 people were hospitalized over the last 24 hours and 43 people were admitted into the ICU. A total of 28,780 Ohioans have died from the disease.
Ohio has seen its fair share of surges, but this one, brought on by delta and omicron and causing the most harm to unvaccinated individuals, is by far the worst. It's expected for Ohio to break 2 million cases tomorrow as the numbers continue to climb.
According to Budish, Cuyahoga County now leads the state in daily cases, having overtaken Franklin County. Nearly 11,000 people in the county have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and around 2,800 people have died. Cuyahoga County leads the state in the number of hospitalizations, cases and deaths reported.
"The unprecedented number of COVID cases we have seen over the last couple of weeks has put an extraordinary strain on our already overwhelmed hospital systems," Budish said.
It's a dire message and not something to be taken lightly; a message echoed by county health officials.
“Cuyahoga County is experiencing an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases and our medical systems are sadly suffering the effects. Over the last 7 days, our case rate has been over 17 times the CDC threshold for high transmission and our positivity rate has reached 34%. These are historic highs for our community since the start of the pandemic. We are off the charts, even when compared to our brutal COVID-19 winter surge in 2020. We’re sounding the alarm, urging our community to take every precaution to prevent further transmission that could pile on to our hospital systems, which are already bursting at the seams," said Cuyahoga County Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan.
He continued, "About 60% of the county is currently vaccinated, leaving almost 500,000 Cuyahoga County residents still vulnerable to serious health effects from the virus. Only about 24% of our children aged 5-11 have started vaccination and about 43% of our vaccinated population has received an additional or booster dose. We can and must do better. The Omicron variant, which is highly contagious, is spreading widely and quickly, in addition to Delta. It is anticipated that Omicron will become the dominant strain in Ohio and elsewhere, even as Influenza cases are increasing. Our community is staring this 'triple threat' right in the face."
With the coming holiday, health officials are urging residents to avoid gatherings and to get vaccinated. Statewide, around 6.4 million Ohioans or around 55% of the population have been fully vaccinated. As far as boosters go, about 2.6 million Ohioans have received one.
"This is serious business," Allan said. "Unvaccinated and unmasked means that you will be exposed to the virus in the coming days. Gathering with large groups of people for New Year’s celebrations only compounds these formidable risks. We are urging you to avoid these large gatherings, get vaccinated, get boosted and mask up to protect the ones you love. Our choices over the next 48 hours will mean the difference between life and death for some of our residents. Help us work toward a brighter 2022, for everyone.”
Despite the unprecedented increase in cases, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday that he has no plans of mandating masks across the state. However, he did advise school districts to bring those requirements back where needed.
Local schools deciding on remote or in-person learning
Schools across Northeast Ohio are working to determine if they will resume in-person classes, switch to hybrid or go remote altogether. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District, which is the largest district in Northeast Ohio, announced Wednesday it will start the new year remotely and reassess in the following week.
Other districts, such as Garfield Heights City Schools, will return to in-person learning but with a mask mandate.
You can read the list of local districts and their return to school plans, here.
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