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From The Print Last Week

Photo: CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health; public domain.

COVID Update | Feb. 3, 2022

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As COVID-19 case numbers remain at staggeringly high levels, Ohio’s top health official shared a “cautiously optimistic” message last week.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel for us in Ohio,” Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said during a press conference streamed online Thursday, Jan. 27. “We are continuing to see many signs of improvement in some of Ohio’s first and hardest hit areas during this dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases, which has been fueled by the omicron variant.”

Vanderhoff noted that a month ago, the northeast corner of the state, including the Cleveland area, was at the forefront of Ohio’s omicron wave, which saw statewide numbers “rocketing up from about 7,000 to 8,000 new cases a day in early December to more than 20,000 cases a day [in late January]. That area’s incidence level, however, has been “steadily dropping” since mid-January, suggesting that the rest of the state will soon follow.

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Another optimistic sign, he noted, is the daily decrease in statewide hospitalizations, from a high of 6,749 on Jan. 10. According to recent ODH data, COVID-19 hospitalizations numbered 4,132 on Saturday, Jan. 29.

But while there is an observable decline, hospitals remain challenged and case numbers in many areas of the state are still high, he added.

“Have we reached our omicron peak? Well, it’s a yes and no depending on where you live,” Vanderhoff said. “Omicron is hitting Ohio in waves, and right now southeast Ohio, southern Ohio and the Dayton area are seeing increases in hospitalizations.”

“There’s no question that omicron has hit us hard this winter, coming right on the heels of the large surge driven by the delta variant. But we’re cautiously optimistic that we may be reaching the other side and beginning to head down from this peak as we head into the month of February,” Vanderhoff said. “We’ve seen omicron emerge fast and furious with sharp rises and steep declines in other parts of the world, and that is also what may be starting to happen here in Ohio.”

But the road ahead remains long, he added.

“Even when omicron does fully peak in all parts of Ohio, we are still going to be a long way from the much lower levels that we were seeing last spring and summer. Make no mistake, case numbers remain in all parts of Ohio incredibly high,” he said.

The pandemic remains fully present, he said, adding that “a strong foundation of vaccine immunity is playing an important role in the evolution of this pandemic to something that will be more endemic … something we can live with, without serious threat to our population and our healthcare infrastructure. We’re on our way there, but we haven’t arrived there yet.”

Endemic diseases, such as the flu and the common cold, “are all around us,” while a pandemic “has more far-reaching impact,” he said. A disease becomes endemic “when it’s consistently present year after year and its impact is relatively consistent and predictable. COVID-19 thus far has been anything but consistent and predictable.”

Also, he added, “before COVID-19 can become endemic, we need to see substantial reductions in our hospitalizations and case numbers, coupled with more people vaccinated to keep the spread low.”

While the flu can be deadly, COVID-19 has had a more profound effect, he said, noting that “COVID-19 killed eight times as many Americans in 2021 as the flu killed in its 2017–2018 season, which was one of the worst in more than a decade.”

While Vanderhoff looks forward to the virus transitioning from pandemic to endemic status, he does not anticipate its elimination.

“COVID-19 is here to stay,” he said in response to a press question.

• The state’s daily number of new cases tallied during the week of Sunday, Jan. 23, through Saturday, Jan. 29, dropped dramatically from the 20,000-plus daily figures the week before, falling to 12,458 by mid-week and 6,917 on the 29th. The seven-day running average offers a more consistent snapshot of the current situation by averaging newly reported daily cases from seven days in a row. That average decreased daily from 17,438 on the 23rd to 10,441 on the 29th, a reduction by nearly half from the week before.

• The state reported 2,235 new COVID-19 hospital admissions for the week of Jan. 23–29, compared to 2,556 new admissions the week before.

• The number of COVID-related deaths during the same week reached another high, however, at 1,084, compared to 1,065 the week before and 850 the week before that. The total number of deaths in the state since the beginning of the pandemic was 33,071 at week’s end.

• A frequently referenced metric is new case numbers per 100,000 residents, which represents a two-week average. The ODH reports its updated figures each Thursday, and the latest report from Jan. 27 shows the statewide decrease reported by Vanderhoff last week, with a 1,582 average compared with 2,154.8 the week before.

• Greene County also saw a slight decrease in its per 100,000 average, with 2,142.2 as of Jan. 27, compared to 2,543.6 per 100,000 county residents as of Jan. 20. Greene County’s latest figures put it at 33rd among Ohio’s 88 counties. Scioto County, in southern Ohio, was at the top at 3,724.4. Five counties reported case averages of more than 3,000 per 100,000 residents, while five counties were below 1,000. Cuyahoga County, which for several weeks at the beginning of the new year was at the top, landed at the bottom with 466.9. An average of 100 or more cases per 100,000 is considered a “high” incidence rate.

• The total number of new cases in Greene County for the week of Jan. 23–29 was 1,415, compared with 2,673 the week before. The 45387 ZIP code accounted for 31 of the new cases this past week, compared to 72 the week before.

• New hospital admissions in Greene County totaled 15 for the week of Jan. 23–29, compared with 32 the week before and 20 the week before that. The reported number of deaths in the county last week was seven, compared with 19 the week before.

• In Yellow Springs, the public schools reported 6 positive cases as of Thursday, Jan. 27, compared with 17 the week before and a high of 24 the week before that. Three of last week’s cases were among middle/high school students, two were Mills Lawn students and one was among district staff. An additional 10 students were in quarantine, with seven students from the middle/high school and three from Mills Lawn.

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