The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
An average of more than 6,400 Ohioans continue to contract COVID-19 per day, according to data from the state health department.
The recent surge of cases is driven by children aged 18 and below, who comprise nearly 3 in 10 infections statewide.
Nearly 3,700 Ohioans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the Ohio Hospital Association, the most since mid-January. A vast majority of the COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, despite widespread availability of free vaccines.
Amid the surge, only about 8,700 Ohioans on average are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine per day. At this rate, it would take about a year until 80% of Ohio’s 11.7 million residents are vaccinated (not accounting for the roughly 1.4 million with natural immunity acquired through infection).
Hospitals and health officials are again sounding the alarms about increasingly scarce care capacity in some areas of the state, worsened by staffing shortages among pandemic fatigued staff.
“We’re in a serious situation,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff at a press event last week. “Hospitals are being stretched toward capacity, not only because of the high numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations, but also, as a result of staffing challenges.”
The upshot: Deaths aren’t surging near the rate of cases and hospitalizations. The seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths by day statewide hit its most recent peak at 27 on Aug. 24. At its worst in December 2020, 200 Ohioans died of COVID-19 by day on average.
Ohio has the 13th highest rate of cases by state and the 10th lowest vaccination rate, according to data from The New York Times. About 53% of Ohioans of all ages have received at least one dose of a vaccine, compared to 64% nationwide.
An analysis last week found that in 66 of Ohio’s 88 counties, fewer than 1 in 2 residents are vaccinated against COVID-19, which has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918 influenza.
“The message, it should be like a mantra: please go get the vaccine,” said Dr. Mike Canady, a physician with Holzer Health System who appeared with state officials at a briefing. “We could have prevented where we are right now if we had had vaccine in 80 percent of our population three or four months ago.”
Canady said staff at Holzer are facing a spike in COVID-19 cases, burnout and exodus among staff, and concern of patients showing up to hospitals without a bed and staffing resources to spare.