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Ohio's top doctor says an 'Omicron Tsunami' is hitting the state right now

A drive through COVID testing site in Columbus.
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
A drive-thru COVID testing site in Columbus. Health experts say that the positive test rate at new COVID mass testing sites throughout the state is more than 40 percent.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says the record-high number of cases right now is driving record-high hospitalizations. He uses the word, “tsunami” when describing this surge, driven by the omicron variant.

“Our state is experiencing the highest number of COVID-19-driven in-patient hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and patients on ventilators that we have seen throughout this pandemic. And sadly, these beds continue to be filled, better than nine out of 10 times, with the UNvaccinated,” Vanderhoff said.

Dr. Andy Thomas, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Jo Ingles
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Dr. Andy Thomas, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Dr. Andy Thomas with the OSU Wexner Medical Center says more than 40% of the tests administered at the hospital's new drive-through site in Columbus come back positive.

“Now we are over 40% at many sites throughout the state. It’s just a different territory than we’ve been in before,” Thomas said.

Health officials began setting up COVID-19 mass testing sites in some of Ohio’s biggest cities a few weeks ago and more are in the works for smaller communities. The Ohio National Guard is assisting with testing in some of the sites.

Dr. Robert Wyllie, Cleveland Clinic
Jo Ingles
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Dr. Robert Wyllie, Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Robert Wyllie with the Cleveland Clinic says the high number of positive cases is driving hospital admissions. And he says the sickest patients are unvaccinated.

“75% of the people who are hospitalized are unvaccinated. 87% in the ICU are unvaccinated. And 91% of those on ventilators are unvaccinated,” Wyllie said.

About 59% of eligible Ohioans are currently fully vaccinated. Doctors say more than 40% of tests currently administered at the new mass testing sites are coming back positive.

The Omicron variant is a challenge for doctors because it's highly contagious and even fully vaccinated Ohioans are catching it. But doctors are optimistic that the people who are vaccinated and getting the virus will have more immunity to fight it off in the future, making it harder for the illness to continue at this level.
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. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.