Ohio led the nation in COVID-19 deaths over the last seven days.
The finding, per a New York Times tracker of federal data, belies the good news that infections and hospitalizations caused by the new coronavirus have trended downward over the course of the first month of 2022 in Ohio and around the U.S.
Death data tends to lag infections and other pandemic indicators by three to four weeks, leaving the current picture somewhat hazy. In December 2021, more than 105 Ohioans died on average of COVID-19 per day.
While hospitalizations and infections are waning, they continue to occur at some of the highest rates of the pandemic. More than 13,000 Ohioans on average are contracting COVID-19 per day, according to an analysis of state data. More than 230 per day are admitted into hospitals with COVID-19. Nearly 4,750 Ohioans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Ohio Hospital Association.
“It’s a real mixed bag and I think that gets lost in this desire to find the positive news,” said Mark Cameron, an immunologist at Case Western Reserve University. “That basically undermines the severity of what some people are going through right now, and the continued need for precautions.”
While the Omicron variant has proven its ability to infect some vaccinated people, the risk of hospitalization and death lies overwhelmingly with unvaccinated people. In Ohio, more than 94% of all hospitalizations and deaths since Jan. 1, 2021 have occurred among people who are not fully vaccinated.
In terms of vaccination coverage, Ohio fares poorly on a national scale. About 61% of Ohioans of all ages have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to a national rate of about 76%. Ohio remains the 8th least vaccinated state in the nation.
In an interview, Cameron emphasized several points. For one, while this current wave may well have peaked, COVID-19 has more surprises in store as it enters its third year of existence. More variants are likely, and they may incur stronger illness or be able to evade immunity from vaccination or prior infection. With them will come more outbreaks, most likely in cold and flu season in late fall and early winter.
Additionally, while some recent metrics are encouraging, COVID-19 is still raging in Ohio. And there’s no guarantee a decrease today means a decrease continues tomorrow.
“As the good news comes in that’s great, as cases wane, that’s good news, too,” he said. “But the deaths should not lose their meaning, should not lose their tragedy. We should continue to be ready for the next surge and not pretend this has gone away.”
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