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COVID surge in Ohio: Health officials warn case rates remain high, but note some 'signs of improvement'

Ohio reports that 55.87 percent of the state’s population is now considered fully vaccinated.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Various health officials offered yet another update regarding the COVID pandemic amid the latest surge in new infections throughout the state.

What follows is a topic-by-topic breakdown of the updates provided in the press conference, which was hosted by Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

FEMA APPROVES MEDICAL RESPONSE TEAM IN AKRON

Dr. Vanderhoff said his office has learned that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has approved a medical response team to provide support at Summa Hospital in Akron.

"At this time, we are still awaiting details concerning the makeup of that team," Dr. Vanderhoff said.

When 3News' Sara Shookman asked for additional details during the press conference, Dr. Vanderhoff offered the following statement: “As I noted, we really don’t have any details. We’re delighted to learn from FEMA we are going to be receiving resources targeted to the Summa Health System, but we really don’t have any additional details at this time.”

NOTE: We streamed the entire press conference, which you can watch in full in the player below: 

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SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT -- BUT CASES REMAIN HIGH

“Statewide, hospitalizations reached a pandemic high earlier this month and have been slowly declining for the last 10 days," Dr. Vanderhoff said. "That drop has been the steepest in Northeast Ohio where hospitalizations have fallen by as much as 24 percent in the Cleveland area this past week."

Dr. Vanderhoff said the positive signs are also coupled with the reality that other areas are "still on this rise of this omicron tidal wave" with the demand for health services still at an all-time high statewide.

"While overall hospitalizations for COVID-19 are trending downward, just yesterday we had our second-highest day for hospital admissions on record," Dr. Vanderhoff continued. "So despite some encouraging signs, our hospitals remain strained."

STATUS OF HOSPITALIZATIONS

Alice Kim, MD, Medical Director for Medical Operations at the Cleveland Clinic joined the press conference to note a decrease in hospitalizations within the region.

“Over the last 10-12 days, we are seeing about 20-25 percent decrease in hospitalizations throughout our zone and also our region," she explained. "But we have to remember that number is still very high and the highest it has been in the pandemic.”

Approximately 10-12 days ago, Dr. Kim said the Cleveland Clinic peaked with about 1,200 patients within their hospital system. She said that number is now down to about 700.

Dr. Kim also said the 20 medical professionals from the U.S. Air Force that arrived to provide support are currently in orientation and are expected on the clinical floors later this week.

Dr. Vanderhoff, meanwhile, said hospitalizations are currently rising in the southern and western portions of Ohio. Here are some updates he shared regarding ICU admissions involving COVID patients when compared to data from last week:

  • Southwest region: 14 percent increase.
  • Western region: 13 percent increase.

“It’s not just adults that are impacted," Dr. Vanderhoff continued. "Indeed, Dayton Children’s Hospital is treating a record number of children with COVID-19 – the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated.”

OHIO NATIONAL GUARD SHIFTING RESOURCES

“Even as COVID-19 is shifting in terms of its surge impact across the state, our supportive resources are also shifting," Dr. Vanderhoff said. "The Ohio National Guard resources that were supporting testing in Akron and Cleveland are no longer as essential there as testing demand declines in that region, which is allowing the Guard to redirect resources to support new testing locations in other corners of our state."

To date, more than 2,000 members of the National Guard have been deployed to assist medical teams throughout the state since Gov. DeWine ordered their help last month.

RELATED: University Hospitals give special thank you to Ohio National Guard members helping with COVID surge

As the current surge continues to evolve, so does the strategy involving the National Guard.

“Right now, we’re in the process of disengaging well over 400 of our service members from the Cleveland area and looking at moving to Dayton, Cincinnati and the southern part of the state where we see the demand increasing," said Major General John C. Harris, Jr., Adjutant General of the Ohio National Guard.

He explained that hospitals are given a week notice before National Guard members are disengaged and assigned to a new location.

TESTING: SUPPLY STATUS AND MORE TESTS COMING

“This demand for testing continues to grow nationally, and continues to stretch our national supply chain," Dr. Vanderhoff said. "This month, Ohio ordered 1.2 million proctored testing kits – but only a fraction of those tests have been delivered. Our state is still anxiously awaiting the arrival of another shipment of these home tests to distribute to our community partners. Once that shipment arrives, we anticipate having approximately 400,000 testing kits that we can distribute. Once tests become available and the urgent requests of our schools are filled, the state plans to resume fulfilling requests for these rapid test kits from local health departments and other community partners.”

To date, Dr. Vanderhoff said Ohio has provided more than 5.6 million free testing kits to date.

“While testing supply chains are challenged and impacting our ability to provide free tests to everyone who wants them, tests are still available. Over-the-counter home rapid testing kits can still be purchased at many pharmacies and grocery stores. Testing is also available at many urgent care locations, community health centers and pop-up testing sites.”

He also noted the four free tests available to each American household through the federal government's plan. You can order your free tests from the federal program HERE.

RECENT DATA

Thursday's press conference comes as Ohio is still reporting a high number of daily COVID infections. The 21-day average for new cases currently stands at 22,071, according to data reported Wednesday afternoon. The most recent single-day case total came in at 20,483.

When it comes to vaccinations, Ohio says 55.87 percent of the state’s population is now considered fully vaccinated. That number was at 55.6 percent the day prior.

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