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Ohio is headed into winter already in a COVID surge, says state's top doctor

 Cars line up at the Ohio Fairgrounds to receive free COVD tests.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Cars line up at the Ohio Fairgrounds to receive free COVD tests.

Ohio attorney general Dave Yost has announced he’s signing onto a lawsuit by more than a dozen states against a COVID vaccine requirement by Medicaid and Medicare for health care workers.

But the state’s health agency is still pushing the message that vaccines are the best way to beat COVID as they worry about what’s ahead.

Case numbers and hospitalizations are up in the last few weeks, and nearly 5,200 people in Ohio have been reported to have died of COVID in just the last two months.

Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says there’s no way to predict what the next few months will hold.

“We are headed into the winter with very high levels of disease transmission, and over the last couple of weeks, a definite upturn in the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations," Vanderhoff said. "So essentially, we’re heading into the winter already in a surge.”

But Vanderhoff said communities with high vaccination rates are seeing much lower virus activity rates, so he says there’s hope.

Just under 56 percent of Ohioans over 5 are fully vaccinated.

ODH reports 36,938 unvaccinated Ohioans have been hospitalized since January 1 of this year. And that number has more than doubled since July 27. And there's been a ten-fold increase in hospitalizations among vaccinated people in the last four months.

11,647 unvaccinated Ohioans have died of COVID since the start of the year. But nearly half of those deaths were reported in the past four months. And of the 543 vaccinated Ohioans have died this calendar year, over 93% of breakthrough COVID deaths this year were reported after July 27.

Yost's decision to join the lawsuit over the Medicare/Medicaid vaccine requirement is the latest action his office has taken against the Biden administration. He's also filed suits over the "vaccine-or-test" requirement for companies with more than 100 workers and for federal contractors.

Last week, Republican representatives passed a bill that would ban COVID vaccine mandates, vaccine exemptions and proof of vaccination status or "vaccine passports". But that bill is considered unlikely to move forward in the Senate or, if it does, to be signed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.