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'It's far too early for us to claim victory': Ohio health officials urge COVID and flu vaccinations ahead of holiday season

Ohio reports 50.9 percent of the state's residents are now fully vaccinated.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — “While it’s tempting, it is far too early for us to claim victory. Although cases are declining, the situation in our Ohio hospitals remains very serious.”

Those are the words of Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff on Thursday as he hosted a press conference on COVID-19.

“It appears the delta surge has, in fact, plateaued," Dr. Vanderhoff said. "Nevertheless, we continue to see very high numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Yesterday, for example, the 24-hour difference in cases reported as more than 4,400. We compare that to one year ago on the same day, that number was a little bit north of 1,400. In addition, we saw 323 new hospitalizations reported yesterday, while one year ago we saw 123. We are higher than we were a year ago, but I remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll continue to see our cases decline as we move forward.”

He also shared the following data from the Ohio Hospital Association: 

  • One in six hospitalized Ohioans is COVID-19 positive.
  • One in four in the ICU is battling COVID.
  • Rural hospitals: One-third of all hospitalized patients have COVID-19. About half of those in the ICU have COVID.

“Our hospitals are continuing to tell us that they are feeling the very real effects of the surge right now as they continue to face capacity challenges in their ongoing efforts to save as many lives as possible every day," Dr. Vanderhoff said.

The press conference Thursday comes as the state of Ohio approaches 1.5 million total COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

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Dr. Vanderhoff urged everybody who remains unvaccinated to get the shot.

"When more Ohioans are vaccinated, it lessens the opportunity for dangerous variants to take hold, and helps us on our path to gaining control of this pandemic," he said. "Even as COVID-19 continues to spread across Ohio, flu season is also now upon us. As one would expect in mid-October, we are beginning to see some flu activity here in the state. Remember, as bad as it sounds, you actually can get both the flu and COVID-19 at the very same time. The good news is, we have vaccines to help prevent severe illness from both the flu and from COVID. Now is the time to get your flu shot – and if you haven’t already, it’s also the time to get your COVID-19 shot. Remember, you can get both shots at the same appointment.”

His push for more vaccinations comes with Thanksgiving just a few weeks away.

“If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, now really is the time to talk to your doctor about it, get the facts and then, I would hope, you choose to be vaccinated," he continued. "These precautions will not only keep us healthy, but they can also go a long way toward alleviating the pressure that is really being experienced acutely by our health system – especially our hospitals.”

RELATED: COVID-19 was 2nd-leading cause of US deaths in September, analysis finds

So where does Ohio stand right now in the COVID pandemic? Here’s the most recent data as reported by the Ohio Department of Health:

  • 5,648 new infections (as of Oct. 13)
  • Ohioans who have received at least one vaccine: 54.6 percent
  • Ohioans who are now fully vaccinated: 50.9 percent
  • Total number of cases to date: 1,480,371
  • Total number of hospitalizations to date: 76,289
  • Total number of deaths to date: 23,021

“I know that it has been a very long journey,” Dr. Vanderhoff said earlier this month. “We’re all tired of dealing with COVID-19, but I’d ask everyone to hang in there."

RELATED: Doctors are worried about how COVID, flu season could impact Ohio's hospitals this winter