COLUMBUS, Ohio — "The current surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations is simply putting a dangerous strain on the state’s health care infrastructure. We are, yet again, in a serious situation -- every bit as serious as last December and January."
That's the warning from Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff as he provided an update on the COVID pandemic Thursday morning.
"Hospitals are being severely strained," Dr. Vanderhoff continued. "Not only because of the high numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations, but also as a result of staffing challenges – particularly among the dedicated health care workers who have been fighting this virus on the front lines for months and months on end. When our hospitals are stressed to this degree, it strains their resources to care for other patients needing regular or emergency care."
We streamed the entire press conference, which you can watch in the player below:
His warning comes one day after Ohio reported 8,707 new infections -- well above the 21-day average of 6,289. Dr. Vanderhoff said Ohio also had 4,297 patients in the hospital with COVID-19 -- a high we previously experienced in January of this year. Labeling the situation as a delta surge, Dr. Vanderhoff explained that the northern portion of the state is seeing "especially" high rates of hospitalization.
“As a result of the incredible volumes hitting our hospitals every day, our hospitals are having to make very difficult decisions and implement contingencies to cope with the volume and to deliver care to those most in need.”
Last Friday, Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and University Hospitals released a joint statement to say they’re all facing a significant increase in unvaccinated patients.
“This has led to our hospitals reaching nearly full capacity at many locations. Our organizations are experiencing a significant increase in unvaccinated patients being hospitalized because of COVID-19,” the joint statement said.
This has also resulted in the hospitals making adjustments to the scheduling of non-urgent surgeries at some locations.
Dr. Vanderhoff said data shows the rising COVID hospitalizations "continue to be driven largely by unvaccinated Ohioans.'
"The facts continue to provide us a clear reminder that when Ohioans choose to be vaccinated, they’re better protecting themselves from severe illness – including hospitalization and death – and they help mitigate pressure on our hospitals so that timely care is available when any of us need it," he said. "When someone choose to be vaccinated, they’re helping ensure all Ohioans get the medical care they need when they need it. The rate of hospitalization is very high in communities all across our state, reflecting our very high case rates. The problem is especially acute in the north."
To stress the importance of vaccinations, Dr. Vanderhoff provided the following data points:
- Hospitalization rates are 35-40 percent higher in counties that fall below the statewide vaccination rate average.
- Death rates are up to 94 percent higher in counties below the statewide vaccination average.
“All the evidence reinforces that COVID-19 vaccines are our surest protection from severe COVID illness, including hospitalization and death," he continued.
When it comes to vaccinations, Ohio's most recent data from Wednesday afternoon shows 53.66 percent of the state's population is now considered fully vaccinated.
Dr. Vanderhoff also noted safety precautions ahead of the Christmas holiday.
“In addition to getting vaccinated against COVID and flu, if you’re planning to gather in the coming weeks you might also consider getting tested before going to that holiday gathering.”
Thursday's press conference also comes as the omicron variant continues spreading across the United States. Ohio, however, has not yet confirmed a case.
"It's only a matter of when, not if, that variant is detected here in the state," Dr. Vanderhoff said.