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COVID-19 Update

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Cases ticking up again

After a three-month decline, COVID-19 cases in Ohio and Greene County increased over the week. It follows a national trend of growing caseloads, which is associated with the much more contagious strain of COVID-19 known as the Delta variant. Nationally, cases grew by 70% and hospitalizations nearly 36% for the week ending July 16.

• Ohio is not yet seeing as dramatic an increase as other states, but numbers are growing. The seven-day moving average for new cases in the state ticked up to 550 as of Tuesday, July 20, doubling from its recent low of 226 cases per day one week ago. It reached 12,000 per day during the worst of the surge this past winter.

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• In Greene County, the weekly case rate tripled over a week, to 64 cases for the week ending July 20, up from 20 the week prior. During the county’s worst week, 1,065 cases were added.

Cases in the 45387 ZIP code, however, are mostly holding steady. They increased by one this week, to 285. Before that, four cases were added over the last two months. As recently as early May 2021, the area was adding four new cases here each week.

Concerns over Delta variant

At a press briefing on Wednesday, July 14, Ohio Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the Delta variant is “moving rapidly” to become the dominant strain in the state. For the week ending June 19, the most recent for which there is complete data, the strain accounted for 15% of all COVID-19 infections, up from 1.9% the week prior. Previously, the Alpha variant, B.1.1.7, was the dominant strain here.

“Delta is highly contagious and it spreads exponentially fast almost everywhere it’s gone,” Vanderhoff said.

Vanderhoff added that Delta is twice as contagious as Alpha, which itself was twice as contagious as the strain responsible for the winter surge. Delta may also increase the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19, he said.

Dr. Andrew Thomas from The Ohio State University Medical Center said that hospitalization is now increasing in the state, but that could be due to spread that occurred during the Fourth of July holiday, not the Delta variant. He noted that 90% of all COVID-19 patients currently in Central Ohio hospitals were unvaccinated, and that, of the remaining 10%, many had pre-existing conditions that affected their immune system function.

Asked if vaccinated people should take additional precautions, Vanderhoff said that vaccinated people are largely protected, and also don’t appear to be contributing to much spread of the variant since the viral load in vaccinated people is not high.

“For most people, vaccination is outstanding protection and I think we remain very confident that if you’re vaccinated, you can pretty much go about business as usual,” he said.

Vaccination urged

• At the July 14 press briefing, both doctors recommended that Ohioans get vaccinated to protect themselves from the more contagious Delta variant. Nationally, the Delta surge is worse in communities with low vaccination rates, according to recent research.

“We now have two Ohios — an Ohio that is vaccinated and protected and an Ohio that is unvaccinated and vulnerable to Delta,” Vanderhoff said. “Communities with low vaccination rates are at risk of hyperlocal outbreaks.”

Ohio’s vaccination rate of 45.4% for fully vaccinated people has stalled out below the national average of 48.4%. New vaccinations of a few thousand Ohioans per day is not doing much to increase the total here. (5.3 million Ohioans have completed vaccination.) Greene County’s vaccination rate, meanwhile, is below the state average, at 44.1%.

Although not available on a per-community basis, the vaccination rate for the 45387 ZIP code is the highest in the county, according to figures from Greene County Public Health obtained following a News request. According to data from the end of June, a total of 3,547 people living in the 45387 ZIP code are fully vaccinated, out of a total population of 5,456. That’s a vaccination rate of 65%. By comparison with other ZIP code areas, Cedarville’s vaccination rate is 26.6%, Fairborn’s is 35.9% and Xenia’s is 41.9%.

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