‘We are in a race’: Why the latest COVID-19 data has DeWine expressing concerns

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine sees reasons to worry about several rising coronavirus statistics, including variants spreading, hospitalizations rising and Michigan emerging as the nation’s new No. 1 hotspot.

DeWine hasn’t conducted a press conference in a week, but at today’s event he is expected to issue an urgent plea for Ohioans to get the vaccine as soon as possible and to emphasize wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“I am very concerned about it. The positivity rate is clearly up … the cases are up,” DeWine said in a Wednesday interview with The Dispatch. “We are in a race between the multiplying variants and the vaccine.”

Ohio continues to report more coronavirus cases stemming from variants, with 310 cases reported as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Wednesday, the state also reported 108 hospitalizations, the third straight day of more than 100 hospitalizations.

DeWine and state health officials have voiced concerns about increases in variants cases, especially with some variants believed to be more contagious and to cause more severe cases of COVID.

On March 22, Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Bruce Vanderhoff said the state had 173 variant cases, nearly a 150 case increase from the 32 cases reported two weeks ago.

“This is not the time to throw caution to the wind,” he said then.

In approximately 10 days, that number has increased by 137 cases.

The majority of Ohio’s variant cases are the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom. The variant has approximately a 50% increased transmission rate and is believed to result in more severe cases, according to the CDC.

The state also reported three P.1. variant cases and two B.1.351 variant cases. All three variants are included on the CDC’s list of variants of concern.

DeWine has shared concerns about variant cases, especially when asked when public health orders will be lifted in Ohio.

The state is also keeping an eye on variant cases in other states. Michigan had 1,242 variant cases as of Tuesday, the second-highest number of variant cases in the country.

Michigan had an overall rate of 361 coronavirus cases per 100,000 population in the last week, according to CDC data, putting it ahead of New Jersey and New York.

“Michigan is on fire.,” DeWine told The Dispatch. “We worry about that in regard to Toledo, northwest Ohio. We are seeing a more pronounced increase in cases and positivity in northern Ohio than we are in the rest of the state.”

Ohio reported more than 100 new hospitalizations for the third straight day, with 108 recorded Wednesday.

The number of COVID patients currently hospitalized in Ohio increased for the fourth straight day. The state has reported more than 900 hospitalized coronavirus patients for eight straight days, recording 978 COVID patients in hospitals Wednesday, the most reported in two weeks.

One bright spot Wednesday: Ohio reported 1,989 daily cases of coronavirus, a day after the state recorded its second-highest number of daily cases in the last three weeks.

The Wednesday number was about 500 fewer than the 2,458 reported Tuesday. Ohio’s 21-day average is 1,623 cases a day.

Nearly 1.95 million people in Ohio have finished their coronavirus vaccine, with 3,387,577 receiving at least on dose as of Wednesday.

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