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Health & Science

COVID-19 is still infecting people, but fewer Ohioans are getting seriously ill. Here's why

 Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff on a call with news reporters
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff painted a positive picture of the current state of the pandemic in Ohio but also warned that public should use this time to prepare for a possible future surge.

The COVID-19 picture remains positive in Northeast Ohio even while the virus continues to circulate across the state, Ohio health department officials said during a press conference Wednesday.

“We absolutely are seeing overall numbers in Ohio and nationally increasing, said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health. “ They do not appear to be going through the exponential increase that we saw during the initial omicron wave.”

That’s because many people are enjoying immunity thanks to vaccines and previous infections, which is also protecting people from getting seriously ill, Vanderhoff said.

“We are seeing indications of a fair amount of transmission,” he said, adding that it’s important to put that transmission into context.

Only 582 people are currently hospitalized with the virus compared to over 6,700 on Jan. 11, according to the Ohio Hospital Association.

“Many of those are among people who have been admitted for other reasons among patients who also have COVID,” Vanderhoff said. The average number of weekly deaths has declined by 16% in the past three weeks.

The best way for people to gauge risk is to look at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Community Levels, which take into account things like transmission but which also look at how many people are becoming severely ill and whether the virus is stressing the health care system.

Currently, all the counties in Ohio are experiencing low levels except one, the CDC data show.

Those low levels don’t mean that COVID-19 is going away, Vanderhoff said. The virus could surge again in the fall when more people are indoors, he pointed out.

If it does Vanderhoff said Ohio is in a much better position because a majority have some immunity and because medical professionals can now offer therapeutic drugs that help prevent severe disease — even among the immunocompromised.

If you have an underlying medical condition you should make a plan to get the drugs with your doctor before you’re infected to make sure you can get the appropriate drug quickly and avoid any counterindications with any current medications, Vanderhoff said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a website to help people find pharmacies that can fill prescriptions for those medications and “test-to-treat” facilities where the public can get a COVID-19 test and receive treatment, including medication in one location.

There are 16 “test-to-treat” locations within 20 miles of Cleveland and 232 where you can fill a prescription for a therapeutic drug, according to the website. Additionally, within 20 miles of Kent, there are 10 test-to-treatment locations and 149 pharmacies that can fill a prescription.

The best thing Ohioans can do to protect themselves is to stay up-to-date on vaccinations and boosters, Vanderhoff said.