The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
The coronavirus continued a five-week surge in Ohio on Thursday, with state data showing worsening infection and hospitalization rates.
While time lag and a Thanksgiving holiday cloud the latest data, an average of about 5,000 Ohioans per day contracted COVID-19 at the end of November, compared to about 3,600 daily at the beginning of the month, according to an analysis of state health department data.
Of any 100 tests taken over the last week, more than 15 on average are coming back positive — a nearly peak level of test positivity.
Hospitalization data reflects the case increase. About 190 Ohioans were hospitalized per day in late November, compared to about 145 at the beginning of the month. More than 3,900 state residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the Ohio Hospital Association, the highest rate since early January.
Hospitalization rates are up for every age cohort besides those 0-19 years old.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff emphasized the best way to ease the hospital burden is to seek vaccination — vaccinated people comprise less than 6% of those hospitalized with COVID-19. Short staffed and fatigued hospital systems, he said, need the support.
“The problem right now isn’t necessarily physical beds and physical capacity, but staff,” he said.
In terms of vaccination, Ohio continues to fare poorly. The state is the 10th least vaccinated in the nation, according to data from the New York Times. About 58% of Ohioans are at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 71% of Americans.
Death data tends to lag behind infection data by several weeks, and there’s no clear picture of how many deaths resulted from the ongoing case surge. However, a previous case surge peaked in mid-September. By October, roughly 80 Ohioans per day on average died of COVID-19, despite widespread availability of safe and effective vaccines. Less than 5% of those who died of COVID-19 were vaccinated, per state data.
Ohio has yet to detect any cases of the Omicron variant, though it could be silently spreading. State health officials in Minnesota said Thursday they detected the new variant in a local man who recently traveled to New York City. The CDC announced Wednesday that health officials in San Francisco detected the variant in a person who had recently traveled to South Africa, where the mutation is believed to have originated.