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The top doc in Ohio says the COVID situation is better but warns against overconfidence

 Patient suffering from COVID-19 in hospital
Patient suffering from COVID-19 in hospital

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says COVID case numbers and hospitalizations are down but there’s still a big threat to public safety when you consider where the state stands right now. Vanderhoff says the state’s hospitalization rate is down to 18%, with the Northern part seeing bigger declines than the Southern portion. Because of that, he says more than a third of the 2000 Ohio National Guard members have been released from serving at hospitals and testing sites.

“As of Tuesday, the number of guard members deployed across Ohio had declined to about 1200 serving at 28 hospitals and 12 testing centers,” Vanderhoff says.

But Vanderhoff warns COVID is still a high risk in Ohio since caseloads are five times the number identified as high by the CDC. Vanderhoff says some Ohio counties are up to 20 times higher.

"While there is no doubt we are quickly moving in the right direction, it's simply too early for us to declare victory given the reality that thousands of Ohioans are still being diagnosed with COVID-19 each and every day," Vanderhoff says.

Vanderhoff says hospitals are continuing to treat mostly unvaccinated COVID patients. He says Ohioans should get vaccinated if they haven't already. Right now, stats from the Ohio Department of Health show a little more than 60% of eligible Ohioans (those 5 years old and older) have been fully vaccinated.

 daily vaccination dashboard
Ohio Dept. of Health
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Ohio Dept. of Health
daily vaccination dashboard

Vanderhoff also urges Ohioans to get booster shots. He says getting them on time gives people the best protection against COVID. He says today, of the 6.6 million Ohioans who are fully vaccinated, 3.3 million Ohioans have received a booster shot. Dr. Ken Gordon of the Cleveland Clinic says the booster shots have been shown to make a measurable difference in preventing deaths overall, especially in older Ohioans. He says immuno-compromised people should get boosters every 4 months and everyone else should get them every 5 months (per CDC guidelines).

 Dr. Ken Gordon, Cleveland Clinic
Jo Ingles
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Statehouse News Bureau
Dr. Ken Gordon, Cleveland Clinic

Gordon says a recent study at his facility shows those who got booster shots had significantly more protection against infection. He says the booster shots have been shown to make a measurable difference in preventing deaths overall, especially in older Ohioans. He says immuno-compromised people should get boosters every 4 months and everyone else should get them every 5 months.

Vanderhoff warns new variants will be coming in the future. And he notes more children have been hospitalized with the Omicron variant. He says it's important for kids to get vaccinated. He expects CDC will soon allow vaccinations for children under 5 years old. He says 3,800 vaccine providers across Ohio are preparing to vaccinate these kids once vaccines are available.

Vanderhoff says the agency is going to put a new dashboard on its website to help make sure Ohioans and medical professionals who want information about where to get therapeutics and preventive medicines that have been FDA approved to treat the virus.

“The dashboard will include a map. It will be searchable. And it will be able to be filtered by city, county and zip code. And that dashboard will be updated every week," Vanderhoff says.

The dashboard is expected to be up and running sometime next week.

Many school districts throughout Ohio that had mask requirements have been relaxing those as the COVID situation improves. But Vanderhoff warns against that. He says while it is up to local communities to make choices for their students, it's important that masks still be worn indoors and in crowded spaces.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.