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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

A Tale Of Two Ohios: Gov. Mike DeWine Warns Of Vaccination Divide

COVID-19 cases are increasing, and the Ohio counties seeing the biggest increase are the ones with the lowest vaccination rate, Gov. Mike DeWine said in a Friday morning press conference.

“We truly have two Ohios: one where people are safe, and one where they are not,” DeWine said.

Nearly 50 percent of Ohio's population has started the COVID-19 vaccine. Many Northeast Ohio counties are slightly higher than the state's average, with 55 percent of Cuyahoga County residents and nearly 57 percent of Lake County residents who have started the vaccine, according to Ohio Department of Health data. 

There have been 18,662 people hospitalized with COVID-19 since January 1 in Ohio. Of that number, 18,367 hospitalized people hadn’t been vaccinated.

With more than 98 percent of people hospitalized for COVID-19 unvaccinated, it’s far more likely for people to end up in the hospital with COVID-19 if they haven’t received the vaccine, DeWine said.

The predominant COVID-19 variant in Ohio is the delta variant, which Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said is much more contagious.  

“Delta makes patients sicker, quicker,” Vanderhoff said. “Delta spreads like wildfire, and it seeks out anyone who’s unvaccinated.”

The delta variant reproduces much more quickly inside an infected person, and Vanderhoff said it’s much more dangerous. People who get infected with the delta variant are more likely to be hospitalized, end up in the Intensive Care Unit, or die, he said.

“It’s important for us all to recognize that this virus is not the common cold,” Vanderhoff said.

Both DeWine and Vanderhoff said the vaccines continue to protect against COVID-19 and its variants, and Vanderhoff agreed with DeWine’s assessment of the vaccination divide in the state.

“Delta has created two Ohios: one Ohio that is vaccinated and very well protected, and another Ohio that is unvaccinated and vulnerable to the ravages of the delta variant,” Vanderhoff said.

DeWine said the vaccine is widely available and free, and he encouraged anyone who is eligible to be vaccinated to get the shot.

With the virus spreading rapidly, DeWine also encouraged everyone to wear masks yet again, even if they’re vaccinated.

The governor said, however, there are no new plans to bring back mask mandates in Ohio or issue any new health orders.

Children under the age of 12 are not eligible for the vaccine yet, and DeWine emphasized that it’s important to protect this vulnerable population.

Copyright 2021 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.

Lisa Ryan is a health reporter at Ideastream Public Media.