A Tale of Two Ohios as Delta Variant Spreads: The Vaccinated and Protected, and the Other 52%

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the medical director for the Ohio Health Department, said the question is not whether an unvaccinated person will get COVID but when.

The Delta variant is starting to spread in Ohio - Photo: University Hospitals
Photo: University Hospitals
The Delta variant is starting to spread in Ohio

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the medical director for the Ohio Health Department, said this week that the reality of the pandemic right now is that there are two Ohios.

"An Ohio that is vaccinated and protected on the one hand," he said, "and an Ohio that is unvaccinated and vulnerable to delta on the other."

As of the end of last week, only 48% of Ohioans had received at lease one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccination rates vary widely by county, with Delaware leading the pack at 62% vaxed and Holmes County coming in dead last at 15%. Despite the Vax-a-Million push, those numbers haven't climbed much as shots have been made available to anyone over the age of 12 who wants one. (Only 2,986 vaccines were administered in the entire state on Tuesday, according to state.)

This, according to the Washington Post, means that Ohio won't hit the 70% vaccinated mark until spring of next year, which means that pockets of susceptible, unvaccinated people could drive regional outbreaks if not during the summer, likely in the fall and winter, Dr. Vanderhoff said.

The highly contagious Delta variant hasn't yet caused the spikes in infections and deaths seen in other states, but it has become far more prevalent in Ohio, accounting for 1% of cases from the start of the pandemic through the middle of this summer but 15% of cases from June 6 to 19, the state said.

And with the spread, Vanderhoff said in a call with reporters, the question is not whether an unvaccinated person will get COVID but when.

As data paints a stark and grim picture of the outcomes for those who've gotten the jab and those who haven't — unvaccinated people account for 99% of recent deaths and 97% of hospitalizations — the push is on, through public health campaigns, novel ideas like lotteries and new outreach by some Republican lawmakers who had previously dismissed science in favor of turning the vaccine into a culture war front, to convince those who've held out against the proven, safe vaccines to get their shots.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week.

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This story was originally published by CityBeat sister paper The Cleveland Scene.

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