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Ohio health officials urge vaccination as hospitals see ‘huge surge’ in COVID-19 patients

Research shows hospitalizations are 35-40% higher in counties that are below the statewide vaccination average.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Medical experts with the Ohio Department of Health and across the state detailed the surge hospitals are seeing in COVID-19 patients during a press conference on Thursday. 

The briefing comes ahead of the holidays, and as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise in the state. 

As of Wednesday, 4,297 patients in Ohio hospitals is battling COVID-19. Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the last time health officials reported that many virus hospitalizations was during last winter’s surge in January.     

Vanderhoff said this current surge is putting a “dangerous strain” on the state’s hospital system.

“We are, yet again, in a serious situation,” said Vanderhoff, who explained hospital staff are struggling to care for other patients under the surge. 

On average, roughly 62% of all new hospitalizations have occurred in northern Ohio. Additionally, data shows hospitalizations are 35-40% higher in counties below the statewide vaccination average. 

“So it’s clear that higher vaccination rates are associated with lower rates of hospitalization and death,” Vanderhoff said in part. 

Dr. Gary Seaman is a medical director with Williams County Health District in the northwest part of the state. 

According to Seaman, Williams County has seen “a huge surge” in COVID-19 cases, with 230 cases being reported in just the past week. Roughly 90% of all patients are unvaccinated, Seaman added.  

As a result of the surge, some patients are being turned away from hospitals and being forced to travel further for care. 

“That’s a delay in care, that’s a delay in urgent care,” said Seaman. “We have stroke patients sitting in our hospital hoping for the best when they really need to be seeing an interventional neurologist in a larger city who can’t care for that patient.” 

While the omicron variant has still not been detected in Ohio, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said it's a "matter of when, not if" a case is reported. 

Vanderhoff said health officials are using genomic sequencing to detect other variants of the virus in PCR tests. 

"While there is still plenty to learn about omicron over the coming days and weeks, we are closely monitoring new data and emerging research as it becomes available," said Vanderhoff.   

Some of that research emerging from Sweden and South Africa in recent days shows antibodies prove to show "better than expected" resistance against the virus, meaning while the COVID-19 vaccine may not protect as much against possible re-infection, it has promising potential to protect against serious illness from the variant.   

Health officials continue to urge Ohioans to get vaccinated or receive a COVID-19 booster shot ahead of the upcoming holidays. You can find the nearest vaccine site by clicking here

Watch Thursday's full briefing in the player below: 

COVID-19 in Ohio: Recent Coverage ⬇️