COLUMBUS, Ohio — As COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases continue to increase across the state as a result of the highly contagious delta variant, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine spoke to the public today and said that, in terms of the current state of the pandemic, there are two Ohios.
“We truly have two Ohios -- one group of people who are safe, one who are not. Making it more dangerous for those who are not vaccinated is the emergence of the delta variant,” said DeWine.
As he has for months, DeWine repeatedly encouraged Ohioans to get vaccinated.
The governor shared data regarding those who have been hospitalized in 2021.
Since January, there have been 18,662 Ohioans hospitalized due to COVID-19. Out of that number, 18,367 of those hospitalized were not fully vaccinated. A person is considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the one-dose J&J vaccine or two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Out of the 18,662 Ohioans who were hospitalized, 295 were fully vaccinated.
The delta variant is now the dominant strain in Ohio. Less than 1% of cases in May were delta. That number has now skyrocketed as the delta variant made up 86.47% of cases between July 4 to July 17, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The delta variant
Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the delta variant is more contagious than the common cold or flu.
It takes less of the virus to go from an infected person’s nose and mouth to another person’s nose and mouth. Estimates now show the delta variant is about 50% more contagious than the variant that preceded it, Vanderhoff said.
“Delta is more dangerous than prior versions of the virus. We now have data from Canada and from Scotland that show that people infected with the delta variant have a much higher likelihood of needing to be hospitalized,” said Vanderhoff.
Vanderhoff said the current delta variant could cause an infected person to go on and infect five to eight other people, a greater number than earlier in the pandemic.
“Delta has created two Ohios, one Ohio that is vaccinated and very well protected and another Ohio that is unvaccinated and vulnerable to the ravages of the delta variant,” Vanderhoff said.
Vaccinations guard against delta
The best way to protect oneself against COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated, said DeWine and Vanderhoff.
Current numbers Friday showed 60% of all adults in Ohio are now vaccinated.
“Vaccination is without any doubt your best bet, regardless of your age, for avoiding getting really sick from COVID-19 and for avoiding some of the lasting complications like long COVID,” Vanderhoff said.
DeWine offers support to local health departments for vaccine incentives
But there is some good news -- DeWine said all 88 Ohio counties saw an increase in vaccinations last week.
To continue that momentum, he’s turning to local health departments and allowing them to use COVID relief funds to incentivize vaccinations for residents.
“We're happy to help with these incentives at the state level, if a county thinks that monetary incentives are the best fit for that county. We're happy to help with anything the county thinks will work,” said DeWine.
Some health departments are already ahead of the game.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Health is teaming up with the Cuyahoga County Public Library for a series of vaccine clinics this month. Those who get vaccinated will be offered a free scoop of Honey Hut ice cream.
Summit County Public Health has been giving out $10-$20 grocery store gift cards at weekly and pop-up clinics.
Both are also giving out $100 gift cards to eligible Medicaid recipients.
Lorain County Public Health has also been offering the Medicaid incentive for weeks now, along with a grocery store gift card incentive for other folks who get vaccinated at their clinics.
But Deputy Health Commissioner Mark Adams said most people haven’t been aware that an incentive was being offered.
“They're coming in to get the shot. Whether there's an incentive or not, folks are coming in. They're very aware of the vaccine, very aware of the information around the vaccine,” said Adams.
As for DeWine’s plan, Adams said they’re going to continue to offer incentives. They’re organizing a book bag giveaway at four vaccine clinics later this month.
However, he thinks the key to success is identifying a unique approach for each community.
“It's identifying with each of those groups and then having a different approach for each of those groups. Because if it's a person that's exercising the right not to get vaccinated, you can pay them, you could offer a million dollars in a vaccine and they're not going to go and get their name in the pool,” said Adams. “And that's what we've been working on as well. And just trying to have meetings with folks out there that are whether they're on the fence or not.”
Visit our Vaccinating Ohio page for the latest updates on Ohio's vaccination program, including links to sign up for a vaccine appointment, a map of nearby vaccination sites, a detailed breakdown of the state's current vaccine phase, and continuing local coverage of COVID-19 vaccines in Northeast Ohio.
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