TUSCARAWAS COUNTY, Ohio — After the late summer wave in new COVID-19 cases, health leaders in Tuscarawas County are reporting a significant rise in COVID-19 deaths.
Between the beginning of September through the first week in November, health department data shows 75 people died from COVID-19 in Tuscarawas County, including 15 in just the last week.
“From the last six weeks, we are definitely seeing higher COVID death numbers than what we saw last year at this time and definitely even last year at the peak,” Tuscarawas County Health Department Commissioner Katie Seward said.
The rise comes while many other counties across Ohio see a recent decline in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
What also stands out in this new data is that 28% of those who died from COVID-19 from September through the first week in November were fully vaccinated, while 72% of those individuals who died were not.
“They range in age from 33 to 95 with the average age of 72,” Seward added. “And there’s nothing that links them all together. The difficult thing is I can't find a common denominator between them.”
It’s a county that still trails the statewide average when it comes to percent of the population vaccinated, with 55.85% of Ohioians receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 42.34% of those in Tuscarawas County.
“Vaccinated individuals are going to continue to be at risk when the majority of your population is unvaccinated,” Seward explained. “The unvaccinated population is still going to transmit and allow spread and variants to occur. Every time a virus jumps from person to person, it changes a little bit. But when that happens, it changes and finds a way to survive. Every time it does that, it gets a little more robust.”
Just about every day, Seward scans the local paper and the obituaries for the faces of this deadly disease.
“It’s starting to be so much more common that we read and the individuals’ families state [their loved one] wasn’t vaccinated and they were on the fence about it,” she said. “And they’re pleading with the public to do what they didn’t.”
For Tracie Kenney, the new numbers mean a little more.
Almost exactly a year ago, her husband Harry was rushed to the hospital in Dover where he would spend the next several weeks before COVID-19 took away his life.
Nowadays, she hears the noise from others, leery or outright against getting vaccinated or wearing a mask.
“I’m just like why don’t you talk to somebody who has been on the other side because you might think about it a little differently,” she added.
Kenney hopes sharing her own nightmare will shine a new light for others.
“[Harry] did cause several people who were against the shot to get it,” she said. “Because of Harry, they were vaccinated, so that makes me proud and I know it would make him proud too.”
“We all want COVID-19 to be over but unfortunately that’s not the reality of the situation,” Seward said.