Delta wave cresting in Ohio but still a killer

·4 min read

Oct. 14—COLUMBUS — The delta-era coronavirus infection surge appears to have plateaued, but thousands of Ohioans continue to be infected each day and hospitals remained overtasked, the state's top doctor said Thursday.

"We are higher than we were a year ago," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, state health director. "But I remain cautiously optimistic that we'll continue to see our cases decline as we move forward."

Some experts are now predicting that an anticipated winter surge of new cases may not occur given the very gradual downward trend in new infections of the more virulent delta variant seen nationally and in Ohio. But Dr. Vanderhoff wasn't ready to make any such prediction as the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas holidays approach.

"One thing that I have learned about this virus is that predictions are fraught, and I have given up attempting to predict what this virus will do," he said as he updated reporters on the state's progress. "...It is by its nature a virus that spreads more readily during the winter months.

"In many ways we were very blessed to have encountered delta during the summertime," Dr. Vanderhoff said. "I genuinely fear that had this hit us in winter we would have had an even more severe experience than what we've had."

The rate at which Ohioans are being infected, primarily with the more virulent delta variant, has leveled off well below the peak of just over 9,000 new cases a day seen on Sept. 10. But there were still 5,143 new infections reported Wednesday.

That was below the three-week average of 5,345. Hospitalizations and intensive-care unit admissions, both indicators that lag infection figures by weeks, remained on the high side at 301 and 36, respectively.

"We on a day-to-day basis have to make a decision on whether or not we can accept patients outside of our hospital or region...," said Dr. Adam Mezoff, chief medical officer of Dayton Children's Hospital. "Our beds are literally full on a regular basis....We have very dedicated caregivers who are burning the candle on both ends trying to keep up with this."

More children are falling seriously ill from the latest variant, and most of them are school-aged children at the Dayton hospital.

"Sadly, those old enough to be vaccinated haven't been," he said.

Dr. Vanderhoff warned that the appearance of a delta crest or decline should not mean Ohioans can back off efforts to slow spread through vaccination, face masks, social distancing, and hygiene practices.

To date, 54.7 percent of all Ohioans have gotten at least one shot of vaccine. That number climbs to 63.9 percent when considering only those age 12 and older who are currently eligible. That compares to 51 percent and 59.6, respectively, of those who've completed a vaccine cycle.

There are also concerns that Ohio will see a resurgence of the flu and other respiratory illnesses this fall and winter after a mild season last year, presumably because of distancing, masking, and other precautions taken in response to the coronavirus. It is possible for patients to simultaneously battle both coronavirus and the flu.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not issued guidance yet this year for Halloween celebrations, but Dr. Vanderhoff urged trick-or-treaters to travel in small familiar groups, mask up, and avoid large celebrations.

The state recently announced another round of lotteries for a total of $2 million in college scholarships over five days to encourage those age 12-25 to get vaccinated. But while registration has begun at www.ohiovax2school.com, no dates for drawings have been set.

The state still hopes to expand the lottery to those as young as 5, assuming the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations authorizes use of a lower-dose vaccine for that age group.

Meanwhile, the Ohio House Health Committee has set a tentative vote on Tuesday for House Bill 248, a far-reaching bill prohibiting mandates that employees, students, and others get any vaccine — coronavirus and otherwise — as a condition of employment, attendance, or service.

This week the chamber backed off on plans to vote on watered-down version of that bill, one seen as a potential compromise but ultimately found to be lacking votes for passage.

First Published October 14, 2021, 1:50pm

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