Akron, Canton bearing brunt of latest COVID-19 surge. Are even more cases coming?

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The CDC expanded its COVID-19 booster recommendation for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to include all adults, ages 18 and up.
The CDC expanded its COVID-19 booster recommendation for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to include all adults, ages 18 and up.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-10 in Summit County grew again Thursday, reaching 254.

That is the highest level of hospitalizations since Dec. 29. The all-time high during the pandemic was 318, just a little more than a year ago on Dec. 15.

Summit County is reflecting a statewide trend, with more Ohioans hospitalized for COVID-19 this week than at any time since last winter's surge in cases.

Statewide, 3,916 people were hospitalized Thursday with COVID-19 — the most since Jan. 12, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

On Thursday, Ohio reported 9,131 new COVID-19 cases. The last time the state had more than 9,000 reported cases in a day was Sept. 10.

More: COVID-19 hospitalizations in Akron area, across Ohio reach highest levels of 2021

Health officials say numbers could continue to rise as more people mingle during the holidays and flee the cold indoors, where infectious coronavirus particles can hover in the air, especially without proper ventilation.

At the same time, immunity is waning among people who were vaccinated earlier in the year. Health officials are urging people to receive boosters or initial COVID-19 vaccines if they haven't yet received them.

More: COVID surging again in Summit County and the flu is making a comeback for Christmas

The eastern region of the state, which includes Akron and Canton, is bearing the brunt of this wave of delta virus. On Wednesday,1,061 people were hospitalized there, more than anytime since the pandemic began, data shows.

In the Northeastern Ohio region, which is separate from Akron and includes Cleveland, 891 people were hospitalized Wednesday, the most since Dec. 23.

The onslaught of cases is weighing on some hospitals.

Summa Health had to slow down plans to reduce its number of hospital beds by 20%, Dr. Cliff Deveny, president and chief executive Officer of Summa Health, said Thursday.

Summa announced it was trimming beds in September to help cope with a nationwide shortage of health care and other workers.

But Deveny said Summa has been unable follow through because there's nowhere else to send patients and the health system has a moral obligation not to turn people away.

COVID-19 hospitalization in Summit County broke down like this on Thursday: Summa 122, up by one from Wednesday; Akron General 97, up by eight; Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls, steady at 23; and Akron Children's Hospital 12, up by three.

Health care officials across Ohio, meanwhile, are on the lookout for the new COVID-19 variant, omicron. So far, there have been only three reported cases in the U.S., in California, Minnesota and Colorado.

They're also bracing for a potential post-Thanksgiving surge that could happen in a week or two, following last week's celebration.

If the surge continues, health care officials have said people should expect a possible repeat of last year's hospital changes and restrictions, including visitor limits and rescheduled non-emergency procedures.

Again, Ohio health officials pleaded with people to get vaccinated.

"Vaccination is how people can be help," said Dr. Andy Thomas, with Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, "...to reduce hospitalization and cases."

In Ohio, 58% of people ages 5 and older have received at least one shot so far. Meanwhile, 15.5% of COVID tests are positive – a rate that is climbing. A month ago, the positivity rate was 9.5%.

In addition to getting vaccinated, health officials also asked Ohioans to get tested if they're showing signs of COVID-19, which may be harder to distinguish from the flu as influenza season arrives.

Rapid, at-home tests are widely available, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said. If an at-home test is positive and you have potential exposure to the omicron variant, health officials advise you also get a PCR test to confirm.

USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau reporter Titus Wu contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Even without omicron, Akron area bearing brunt of COVID-19 surge

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