COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — “Community spread is rapid,” Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday, as the dominant omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to raise cases and hospitalizations to record levels in the nearly two-year pandemic.
A standard measure of the coronavirus’s severity has been cases per 100,000 people. Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control, Vanderhoff said, shows Ohio is seeing just shy of 2,000 cases per 100,00 over the past week.
That’s 20 times what the CDC considers “high,” and it’s a far cry from when Ohio was at just 19 per 100,000 in July before the delta variant wave took hold. Every Ohio county is among the more than 99% of counties nationwide with “high” transmission, per the CDC.
“The numbers clearly demonstrate just how easily omicron is spreading,” Vanderhoff said. “This variant is extremely contagious, and cases are skyrocketing as a result. In this omicron surge, we need to remember that no one is untouchable.”
Fortunately, he added, more people with symptoms in the omicron wave experience COVID-19 like a cold. Research shows omicron is more transmissible than delta, but infections are not as severe.
Ohio’s top doctor stressed, however, “don’t underestimate this variant,” because it has still brought the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations to record levels and tipped the cumulative count over 100,000 on Tuesday.
“When it comes to hospitalizations, there is a widening gap between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated,” Vanderhoff said. “These more severe hospital cases are still mostly among the unvaccinated, and with roughly 30% of Ohioans still unvaccinated, this is a very serious concern.”
Vanderhoff was joined by Major General John C. Harris to talk about the Ohio National Guard’s continued efforts supporting hospitals and testing sites.
Regional health leaders also joined to discuss topics like omicron symptoms and how hospitals are responding to record admissions: Dr. Daniel Bachmann, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and Dr. Jennifer Wall Forrester, Associate Chief Medical Officer and Infectious Disease Physician at UC Health.