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Columbus-area hospitals seeing rise in younger patients admitted for COVID-19

While Miami Valley Hospital saw mostly geriatric patients last year, the demographic of patients has since shifted to younger groups.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health held a press conference on Thursday to provide a statewide update about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff was joined by Steven D. Burdette, chief of infectious disease at Wright State University, for the briefing. 

Vanderhoff said Ohio is seeing an increase in not just cases, but also hospitalizations and ICU admissions. 

Ohio currently has what Vanderhoff said was "substantial" hospital and ventilator capacity. That said, Vanderhoff stressed concern over hospitals in other states, which he said are beginning to turn away certain elective procedures. 

"We don't want to see our hospitals here in Ohio facing such a scenario," said Vanderhoff.      

The press conference comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise statewide. Health officials reported an additional 3,393 cases on Wednesday; a surge Vanderhoff has said is largely linked to a rise in the delta variant, which has since become the dominant variant of COVID-19 in Ohio. 

From July 18 to the 31, the delta variant has made up nearly all of the COVID-19 samples sequenced.  

"That means we can safely assume that any case we are currently seeing in Ohio is almost certainly the result of the delta variant," said Vanderhoff. 

Health officials have noted a recent increase in Ohioans choosing to get vaccinated. 

According to Vanderhoff, more than 10,000 Ohioans daily have begun the vaccination process in recent days. More than 50% of all eligible Ohioans have now received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

"Almost exclusively our sick patients are unvaccinated," said Dr. Burdette with Wright State University. 

Burdette said, while Miami Valley Hospital saw mostly geriatric patients last year, the demographic of patients has since shifted to younger groups. 

"This is not young people with cancer, this is not young people with HIV. This is young people who were working, you know, in a factory two weeks ago before they got COVID," said Burdette, adding the risk factor medical staff most consistently see is obesity.    

Both Vanderhoff and Burdette stressed receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as the best defense against the virus. 

Governor Mike DeWine named Vanderhoff as new director of the Ohio Department of Health on Wednesday. That new role will take effect on Aug. 16, pending confirmation from the Ohio Senate. 

"I am exceptionally proud to be apart of the Ohio Department of Health team and, now, to be appointed as its new director," said Vanderhoff.