State health department shares COVID-19 updates

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Ohio Department of Health hosted a press conference on Thursday in which they shared updates about COVID-19 in Ohio.

“The omicron variant continues to sweep through Ohio. Our daily COVID-19 case counts remain historically high,” Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, said. “Simply put, community spread is rampant. The CDC benchmark for community spread is the number of cases per 100,000 residents. This benchmark has proven to be helpful throughout the pandemic in assessing the extent to which the virus is impacting our communities. What’s considered high community spread is 100 cases per 100,000 residents. Right now in Ohio, the average is just shy of 2,000 per 100,000 residents. That’s more than twenty times what’s considered high. The numbers clearly demonstrate how easily omicron is spreading.”

Vanderhoff explained that the symptoms of the Omicron variant were often similar to a common cold.

“But don’t underestimate this variant. Hospitalizations across Ohio have shattered records this month. When it comes to hospitalizations there is a widening gap between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. With roughly 30 percent of Ohioans still unvaccinated, this is a serious concern,” he said.

Ohio has distributed 5.6 million free testing kits, but demand is rising with cases, especially in group settings such as schools. In order to ensure in-person learning, the state is temporarily funneling available tests to schools and “pausing shipments to our other community partners, including libraries and local health departments until inventory and the supply chain have stabilized,” Vanderhoff said.

While tests will not be distributed to those partners, over-the-counter testing is available in many pharmacies, health centers and more.

Additionally, Gov. Mike DeWine has announced testing locations will be supported by Ohio National Guard in order to help overwhelmed hospital systems.

“We currently have close to 2,000 guard members deployed across the state in various hospitals at about 60 locations,” Maj. Gen. John C. Harris, of the Ohio National Guard, said. “One of the great things about the national guard quite frankly is that we are configured for disasters and emergency response and this in fact is that kind of disaster.”
“The primary thing we find them doing is helping with the swabbing, collecting those samples, but they do everything from traffic control, administrative tasks, registration, checking folks in, checking them out,” he said

From The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Dr. Daniel Bachmann shared challenges healthcare systems are currently facing.

“The constraint on our capacity, the historic volumes we’re seeing, is being felt by everyone right now. This morning in my county, we had well over 100 patients waiting to be hospitalized and throughout all of the healthcare systems and hospitals across my county we had less than 10 beds to fit those patients, so it creates a backlog,” he said. “From a testing standpoint, we are at a point that patients won’t necessarily be tested if they come to the emergency department and are low acuity, meaning they otherwise are pretty well appearing and don’t have other illnesses that would place them at high risk for complications from COVID. In those situations, patients may not receive a test. They’ll still be evaluated, but that testing adds to some of the inefficiency so that’s a step many healthcare systems have taken in response to the high volume we’re seeing.”

Also commenting on the increased demand on hospital resources was Dr. Jennifer Wall Forrester, an infectious disease physician with UC Health. “Because of the sheer number of infections, our hospitalizations are skyrocketing. We are seeing higher pediatric admissions this time around as well. While we are seeing more people hospitalized, luckily there hasn’t been as drastic an increase of those who end up in our ICUs especially when they’re vaccinated,” she said.

However, with decreased staffing availability, she said it feels like they are handling more patients.

“Health care workers are not immune from getting sick from COVID-19. We are seeing more staff than ever off of work right now because they’re ill. For those of us that are left, to be honest, we’re exhausted and trying to keep up with the additional stress on our healthcare system with minimal resources,” she said.

Vanderhoff continued, “The bottom line is this. COVID-19 is not going away. And omicron is not just a little cold for everyone. Lives are still at risk, and lives sadly are still being lost. We’ve had to say heartbreaking goodbyes to 30,000 Ohioans because of COVID-19.”