Ohio may not see peak of COVID cases for weeks

Some modeling predicts state could peak around the end of January.

As Ohio continues to report record-breaking COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations many have asked state officials how long the surge will last.

With South Africa seeing a steep drop in omicron cases, Ohio health officials hope that the state could see a similar decline.

“We would all hope that we are able to enjoy the same kind of pattern seen in South Africa,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. “Certainly it has been encouraging that the omicron wave was able to recede as almost quickly as it arrived in South Africa.”

One of the big differences between populations in South Africa and Ohio is age. South Africa’s population is about 10 years younger than the U.S., said Cleveland Clinic Chief Medical Operations Officer Dr. Robert Wyllie. Ohio’s population is slightly older compared to the U.S.’s general population.

“So we’re more likely to see a lingering effect of omicron and a little bit more severity of the omicron affecting older people as opposed to younger people,” Wylie said.

Due to the older population, Ohio may not see as sharp of a decline and instead have more of a steady decline in cases.

Wylie added that Cuyahoga County and other Northern Ohio communities may have started to show signs of a peak. The time the omicron variant was recognized as a problem in South Africa to its decline was about 25 to 30 days, which is currently where Northern Ohio is, he said.

“[Northern Ohio has] begun to peak and in Cuyahoga County we’ve dropped over the last seven to 10 days in terms of the number of new cases per day,” Wylie said.

Some modeling predicts Ohio could peak around the end of January, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Andy Thomas added. Because Northern Ohio is about two weeks ahead of Central Ohio and approximately four weeks ahead of Southwest Ohio, the state will probably see a shift as the variant peaks and then declines, he said.

Another possible factor in this surge is K-12 students returning to school. If unvaccinated students are unmasked in close proximity of each other while in class, Ohio could see more absences as students and staff get sick or even schools going back to virtual learning.

“We’ve been pushing across the state for K-12 schools to understand that while vaccination is the best long-term strategy for managing this illness, face masking is the best short-term mitigation for this,” Thomas said.

Though there is hope Ohio could see a peak in COVID hospitalizations and cases in the coming weeks, Vanderhoff stressed the importance of focusing on what Ohioans can do now to prevent the virus from spreading.

“The reality is that on the ground right now Ohio is facing a historic challenge in terms of the demands and pressure placed on our hospital and health care delivery system,” he said. “This is as serious as we have seen and our hospitals are having to go through extraordinary efforts to provide beds and the needed care to the sickest patients across our state.”

Anyone who is eligible should get vaccinated and boosted and Ohioans should wear face masks while in large groups.

“This virus is not going away,” Vanderhoff said. “It has been clear that with variant after variant after variant our best defense against severe illness has remained getting vaccinated.”

Cases continue to climb in Ohio

COVID-19 hospitalizations were only slightly up Friday, but still set a record for the ninth consecutive day as the 21-day case average for the first time exceeded 15,000.

There were 19,563 new coronavirus cases reported Friday by the ODH, which brings the 21-day case average to 15,355, the Ohio Department of Health reported.

COVID patients make up one-third of all hospitalizations across the state and represent one-third of all ICU patients.

There were 6,570 coronavirus patients in Ohio’s hospitals Friday, up from 6,550 the day before. Of those, 1,327 are receiving intensive care.

Of those in the ICU for COVID-19 at Kettering Health and Premier Health hospitals, 89% are unvaccinated, according to the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.

More National Guard members deployed

About a thousand Ohio National Guard members will be deployed to Ohio hospitals next week to help hospitals overwhelmed with staffing shortages and an influx of COVID-19 patients.

Ohio National Guard Major General John C. Harris, Jr. said the guard members will start arriving at hospitals as early as the middle of next week. A total of 2,300 Ohio National Guard members have been activated so far, with approximately 40 in Dayton. Currently 1,400 guard members have been deployed in 40 facilities across the state.

Most of the servicemen deployed are helping in non-medical capacities, with about 140 guard members with medical training helping with patients and clinical tasks.

Those helping in non-medical capacities are working to prepare and deliver meal trays, cleaning and turning rooms for new patients and transporting patients, Harris said. Guard members are also establishing testing sites and alleviating the pressure from emergency departments seeing an increase in people seeking COVID tests.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are continuing to set records in Ohio as hospitals across the state delay non-essential surgeries to deal with staffing shortages and a surge in patients.

While Northern Ohio is still being impacted the most, hospitals in Dayton and Cincinnati are also starting to delay elective procedures, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said.

Earlier this week Kettering Health Network announced it was postponing nonemergency surgeries and procedures requiring an overnight stay. Premier Health has also started to reschedule some procedures.

In Central Ohio, hospitals are delaying non-essential surgeries through Jan. 21, said The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Andy Thomas.

“That’s a pretty drastic step that hospitals are voluntarily taking so that we can have the capacity we need when we need it,” he said.

Essential surgeries include surgeries to save a life, organ or limb or to prevent the progression of cancer or severe pain.

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