‘We’re very far from being out of the woods,’ ODH director warns about latest COVID spike

The head of the Ohio Department of Health is warning Ohioans the latest COVID-19 surge is not over, even as the region of the state that led the surge has seen hospitalizations decline over the last week.

“We are very far from being out of the woods,” said Ohio Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. “Things can change dramatically and quickly.”

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Vanderhoff said the state is encouraged by the movement in COVID-19 data from northeast Ohio, which has seen a decline in hospitalizations daily since Jan. 5. He cautioned that other parts of the state though are continuing to face record-breaking hospitalizations that are straining the healthcare system.

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that federal military aid will be sent to multiple states to assist hospitals amid the surge, including Ohio. Vanderhoff said 20 members of the U.S. Air Force Medical Team will be arriving at Cleveland Clinic’s main campus next week.

In the Miami Valley region, 636 people were actively hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Ohio Hospital Association.

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In new data released this week, the state saw a more than 40 percent increase in the prevalence of the omicron variant in the state.

For the week ending Jan.1, Ohio had about 74 percent of positive COVID-19 test samples sequenced in the state turn out to be the omicron variant. That is up from 31 percent two weeks before, according to ODH data.

“Omicron is not just a cold for everyone,” Vanderhoff said. “Lives are still being lost.”

Internationally, researchers have said they are seeing signs the highly contagious omicron variant may have peaked in the UK and could be on track to doing the same in the U.S.

Scientists are beginning to see that the variant that is so contagious may have infected enough people that it can no longer find a host.

“It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, told The Associated Press.

Models produced by the University of Washington project that the number of daily reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. should reach its peak of 1.2 million by Jan. 19.

It will then fall sharply, the model predicts, “simply because everybody who could be infected will be infected,” Mokdad said.