Health officials say it's only a matter of time before omicron is in the Cincinnati area
Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says it's only a matter of time before the region confirms its first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
State officials confirmed the first two cases of omicron in Ohio over the weekend. Kesterman says the best way to protect yourself is to get one of the three approved vaccines.
"We don't know how well they work against omicron, but we know right now the predominant variant in Hamilton County is the delta variant and we know they work 90% effective at keeping you out of the hospital," Kesterman says.
The entire Tri-State is still in the highest level of virus transmission. Hamilton County has about 7,600 active cases, an increase compared to last week. That's partly because the state health department recently added a backlog of cases to the database.
Hamilton County is averaging two COVID-19 deaths each day, with about 1,700 total deaths since the start of the pandemic. Kesterman says even though new cases are starting to slow down, the death rate is likely to go up.
"Traditionally you would see that grow after a few weeks of people being in the ICU," he says. "Right now we have 576 people in our region in the hospital, 142 in the ICU, another 102 on ventilators."
The county health department is working to get test kits directly to people in their homes. Kesterman says they're partnering with groups like Job and Family Services and the Urban League to distribute tests.
"We're trying to figure out any creative spots where we think there might be a need," he says. "We want to make sure that as we transition into the new year, there's lots of access to test kits here in Hamilton County."
New vaccinations have slowed in almost all age groups. About 22% of kids ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated in Hamilton County, a bit higher than the state and national average.