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Ohio Department of Health director says COVID-19 surge has peaked; discusses rise of monkeypox

The press conference took place on Thursday at 11 a.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Officials from the Ohio Department of Health gave a statewide update on COVID-19 and Monkeypox disease.

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The briefing was hosted by Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff.

3News livestreamed the full update, which can be watched in this story.

The following individuals spoke during the presser: 

  • Dr. Vanderhoff, director, Ohio Department of Health 
  • Dr. Michael Forbes, chief academic officer, Akron Children’s Hospital
  • Dr. Joe Gastaldo, medical director of infectious diseases, OhioHealth

COVID-19 in Ohio

The press conference came as Ohio was experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases. In a weekly update, on Thursday, Aug. 4, the state reported over 27,000 new cases of COVID-19. 

RELATED: COVID-19 in Ohio: State reports more than 27,000 new cases in the past week

Currently, in Northeast Ohio, many counties are listed as having a high community level for COVID-19, according to the CDC. 

The good news is that Dr. Vanderhoff believes this spike of COVID-19 may be on the downfall across Ohio. 

“It appears that the modest surge in cases recently caused by the omicron variants may have hit its peak or have leveled off,” said Dr. Vanderhoff. 

In the briefing, officials continued to discuss the importance of vaccinating against COVID-19. 

“As we head into the fall, we are keeping an eye on the development of a new variant-based booster which may be ready as soon as September," said Dr. Vanderhoff. “Waiting for that new booster may not be the best way to protect yourself now. If you are older, unvaccinated or not up to date on your vaccines, you are at continued risk for more serious illness.” 

Back to school and COVID-19

As many children get ready to head back to the classroom, ODH officials warned of the risks of COVID-19 at school.

According to Dr. Vanderhoff, aside from COVID-19 vaccinations, many children are not up to date with their vaccinations. Over the past two years, children entering kindergarten with all of their immunizations have dropped.

Many impacts have played a role in this, but Dr. Vanderhoff believes that missing routine vaccines due to COVID-19 contributed.

“The message to families we try to communicate is that we try to prevent what is preventable," said Dr. Forbes. "That's what we do when it comes to helmets and seat belts. Bad things can happen and they do happen, but as parents, we have a duty to protect our children. Having an effective and safe vaccine that prevents these common illnesses is really important as they head back to school and interact with other children.” 

While the risk of contracting COVID-19 is still present, the ODH updated the quarantine guidelines for students in the classroom. 

This year, the ODH is recommending that students stay home for five days if they test positive for COVID-19. They are dropping the previous recommendation of wearing a mask after those five days.

"We want to make sure they don't miss school days, participation in sports and that they can live their life as kids," said Dr. Forbes.

Officials also noted that the CDC is expected to update its quarantine guidelines in the coming future, with changes also being made to social distancing.

Monkeypox in Ohio

During Thursday's press conference, officials discussed the growing concern from the public of monkeypox in Ohio. 

According to the CDC, Ohio currently has 75 cases of monkeypox, the 21st highest amount for any state. 

“It is important to emphasize that monkeypox does not spread like COVID-19," said Dr. Vanderhoff. "Unlike COVID-19, it doesn't spread as easily between people. Monkeypox is spreading mostly from close intimate contact with people who have monkeypox.”  

RELATED: 'This is not COVID 2.0': 18 monkeypox cases now confirmed in Cleveland

Locally, as of Aug. 8, Cleveland had 18 cases of monkeypox and Lorain County had two. Additionally, Summit County had its first case of monkeypox confirmed today. Officials confirmed that most of Ohio's cases have been in large metropolitan areas.

The ODH has been actively working since the beginning of monkeypox by working with local health department providers to do the following:

  • Provide monkeypox testing 

  • Case investigation 

  • Prevention 

  • Treatment

  • Contract tracing 

According to Dr. Vanderhoff, the biggest problem with the monkeypox disease has been the limited amount of the Jynneos vaccines both in the United States and globally.

Due to Ohio having fewer case numbers than states such as California, Texas and New York, Ohio has had fewer allocations of the vaccine given to them. 

“Our strategy in face of these national limitations has been to get available [vaccine] supplies out to Ohio communities with the highest case counts and individuals with the highest risks," said Dr. Vanderhoff. "This currently includes Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati."

In the coming weeks, Ohio is expected to receive 13,650 monkeypox vaccine doses. 

ODH is currently working on creating a dashboard tracking monkeypox cases throughout the state of Ohio. This dashboard is expected to be published by the end of August.

In Northeast Ohio, the rollout of monkeypox vaccines has also slowly begun. 

RELATED: Monkeypox vaccine available at Central Outreach Wellness Center in Cleveland Heights

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