COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio is experiencing the highest number of COVID-related hospital admissions since the start of the pandemic, state health officials said Friday, though cases are beginning to drop in the northeast part of the state.
During a briefing, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said access to the vaccine has made it possible for COVID-19 to begin to evolve into an endemic illness, but the impact of the contagious virus on Ohio's hospital systems remains a "very serious concern."
"Indeed our 24-hour COVID-19 case counts are repeatedly breaking records," said Vanderhoff.
Since Dec. 29, hospitalizations have continued to surpass previous records for new COVID-19 patients on a daily basis, Vanderhoff said. As of Friday, one in three patients in Ohio hospitals or the ICU has COVID-19.
Of the more than 6,500 total virus hospitalizations in the state Thursday, Cleveland Clinic Chief Medical Operation Officer Dr. Robert Wyllie said roughly 3,700 to 3,800 were in the northern part of the state.
Northern Ohio has increasingly been referred to as a hotspot for COVID-19. Now, Wyllie said cases are beginning to drop in that region. In Cuyahoga County, for instance, the percentage of cases has dropped by around 24-25% in the last two weeks. Wyllie said they hope to see hospitalizations follow a similar path down.
Health officials have predicted COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations will peak in Ohio toward the end of January and that central Ohio is roughly two weeks behind northeast Ohio.
In central Ohio, Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Andrew Thomas said The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and hospitals across Franklin County have seen a "pretty significant and steep" increase in patients hospitalized with the virus over the last two weeks.
"This reflects the fact that omicron is more contagious than other variants," said Vanderhoff.
While more easily spread, health officials say the hospitalization rate for those who test positive with omicron is lower than with the delta variant. Despite this, Vanderhoff said with Ohio's low vaccination rate and so many people getting infected, "It's little surprise that we are seeing unprecedented numbers of hospitalizations."
A second wave of Ohio National Guard members were mobilized to assist hospitals across the state with a rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations on Thursday. State health officials have said the goal is to ease the strain on medical staff at larger hospitals dealing with an overflow of COVID-19 patients.
As of Friday, Maj. General John C. Harris, adjunct general for the Ohio National Guard, says more than 1,200 guard members have deployed to 40 locations across the state.
Those members are performing bedside assistance, offering food and cleaning services, patient transport and more. Additionally, guard members are assisting with COVID-19 testing sites to alleviate the strain on emergency departments.
You can watch Friday’s briefing in the player below: