Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff urged Ohioans to get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing again.
“The delta variant has had it’s second wind, and it’s continuing to relentlessly seek out vulnerable, unvaccinated people in Ohio,” he said Thursday. “We all want to be on the other side of this thing. In order to get there, we simply need more people to choose to be vaccinated.”
Last week the state recorded more than 5,000 cases in a day for the first time since October, and Ohio surpassed 6,000 daily cases Wednesday and Thursday for the first times in a month.
On Tuesday Ohio recorded a 21-day high of 459 daily hospitalizations and 56 daily ICU admissions, according to ODH.
The rising figures prompted health departments from eight local counties to issue a plea for residents to exercise caution for the holiday season.
“Travel and social gatherings can play a leading role in COVID-19 transmission if proper precautions are not taken,” said a release from the West Central Ohio Region of Public Health, which includes Champaign, Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Shelby counties.
In the last three weeks, COVID hospitalizations have increased by 23% and ICU admissions by 15%, according to Vanderhoff.
“These numbers quite simply are going in the wrong direction,” he said.
Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, medical director of infectious diseases at OhioHealth, said it’s not surprising to see more infections during the winter as more people spend more time inside.
While some people may have “COVID fatigue,” now is not the time to let up on health precautions, he said. Gastaldo encouraged people to use the tools we have, such as vaccines and booster doses, to prevent getting COVID.
People who are going traveling for Thanksgiving or gathering with others should consider getting tested for COVID beforehand, consider wearing face masks and holding gathering in places with good ventilation.
Vanderhoff said it’s everyone’s responsibility to help protect healthcare resources and make sure the care people need is available.
“That’s why we’re asking for people who haven’t been vaccinated to please consider getting vaccinated,” he said. “Because it’s very clear, the vaccinated are not the people by and large filling our hospitals, and they are certainly not the people who are having the most severe illnesses.”
Almost two years into the pandemic, health officials are continuing to learn more about the virus. One of those areas is long COVID, said Gastaldo.
Patients with long COVID may be out of isolation and have recovered, but are still showing symptoms of the virus, such as headaches, mental fogginess and changes in taste and smell.
Some symptoms can be debilitating and, currently, most treatment for long COVID is supportive, Gastaldo said.
Anyone infected with coronavirus can get long COVID, including children, teens, young adults and people who are were previously healthy. The best way to prevent getting long COVID is to avoid getting COVID, Gastaldo said.
Mary Beth DeWitt, chief of child psychology at Dayton Children’s Hospital, discussed the mental and emotional stress the pandemic can place on children.
Prior to the pandemic, one in five children had a mental health condition or learning disability, with fewer than half receiving adequate support, she said. Now, healthcare providers are seeing an increase of 30 to 40% in symptoms.
DeWitt added children with pre-existing mental health conditions, who experienced previous trauma, live in poverty or economic instability or have an increased disruption to their daily routine are more likely to be at-risk for negative impacts from the pandemic.
Parents and guardians should stay engaged with their children and continue to talk about how the pandemic has been challenging.
“Opening that discussion up makes a huge difference,” DeWitt said. “Remember that our teens and children focus heavily on their peer group for support.”
Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, staying active and spending time outdoors are other ways to help improve mental health, she said.