‘We have to stay on defense,’ DeWine says as virus cases, hospitalizations rise

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Gov. Mike DeWine urged Ohioans to get vaccinated and to continue following health orders as the state sees coronavirus cases and hospitalizations increase in the state.

“We have to stay on defense, which means we have to wear the masks,” he said. “Ohioans have done a phenomenal job for a number of months, we just have to do this a little longer. Where we can take this on offense is through the vaccine. We just have to keep going.”

While Ohio is seeing an increase in cases throughout the entire state, counties in the northern part of Ohio and along the Michigan border are seeing the highest occurrence rate. Michigan has the highest case rates in the nation now.

Of the 11 counties with the highest occurrence of COVID, eight are in northern Ohio. Clark County is the only county in the Miami Valley that is included in the top 11 counties.

“About one-quarter of Ohioans live in these 11 counties, and most counties are in the northern part of the state where we are seeing a high level of variants,” said DeWine.

Ohio reported more than 2,000 daily cases of coronavirus for the third straight day on Thursday, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

“It’s certainly not where we want to see them,” DeWine said.

Over the last 21 days, the state has recorded an average of 1,997 cases a day. Throughout the pandemic, 1,048,109 total cases have been reported in Ohio.

A key coronavirus data point used to determine when Ohio will lift its public health orders is continuing to move in the wrong direction.

If Ohio reports fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks in a row, the state will end all orders, including a mask mandate.

On Thursday, Ohio reported 200 cases per 100,000, DeWine said. Four weeks ago, Ohio was at 144 cases per 100,000.

Despite the increase, DeWine said he’s still optimistic that Ohioans will get back to their pre-pandemic lives.

“But I can’t tell you when that day is going to come,” he said.

Ohio reported 181 hospitalizations in the last day for a total of 54,636.

As of Thursday, 1,305 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, according to ODH. It’s the second straight day hospitalizations were over 1,300 and the 14th consecutive day they were over 1,000.

Thirty-one ICU admissions were reported Thursday, bringing Ohio’s total to 7,604.

On Tuesday, DeWine and Ohio Department of Health officials recommended the state’s vaccine providers halt the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the FDA and CDC also advised a temporarily pause due to extremely rare reports of blood clots.

Six out of nearly 7 million people in the U.S. who received the Johnson & Johnson shot reported a rare and severe blood clot.

“The bottom line is that these cases have been extremely rare and our nation’s vaccine safety systems have responded swiftly reliably and transparently,” ODH Chief Medical Officer Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday.

Ohio instructed vaccine providers to store the Johnson & Johnson vaccines until further information and recommendations are available.

When asked if he was concerned that younger Ohioans would not be interested in getting vaccinated, DeWine noted that coronavirus can infect anyone, regardless of age, and have horrible consequences, even though older residents are at a greater risk.

“I think if young people look at this as this, your ticket to freedom, we have a great shot at getting enough people vaccinated at all ages,” he said.

The governor added that when talking to people who waited to get vaccinated, most said they wanted to see how things went first.

He encouraged people who are vaccinated to talk to their friends, family and neighbors about their experience and why they chose to get vaccinated.

Vanderhoff discussed “breakthrough cases,” in which a person tests positive for COVID despite being fully vaccinated.

Ohio has reported 154 cases of coronavirus among those who have been vaccinated, with 14 resulting in hospitalizations, DeWine said. No deaths have been associated with breakthrough cases reported in Ohio.

“They should be incredibly encouraging,” said Vanderhoff. “We from the beginning were thrilled because these vaccines appeared to be about 95% effective. Well they’re proving to be more effective than that in the real world. No vaccine is ever going to 100% effective.”

More than 4.25 million people in Ohio have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 2.84 million people have finished it as of Thursday. That means nearly 36.5% of Ohioans have had one dose and 24.36% have completed the vaccine.

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