'Pandemic is heating up' as Hamilton County COVID cases shatter records
Hamilton County's daily COVID-19 new case record from last month has been shattered by the totals seen this week. Hospitalizations within the region are also at a record high.
Last week, the county was averaging 678 cases per day. It's now 1,472 a day. Dr. Richard Lofgren is the president and CEO of UC Health. He says the pandemic is "heating up."
"Omicron, how contagious it is, is just stunning and frightening," Lofgren said. "It truly doubles the cases every two to three days."
Lofgren says while it transmits faster than the delta variant, it is not causing intense disease like the other variant. Despite this, the hospitalizations caused by omicron are overwhelming the hospital systems, making it more difficult to take care of people.
"Though a smaller percentage of people who get omicron compared to delta require hospitalization, a small number on a very large number is a very large number of individuals," Lofgren said.
Hospitalizations within the region are also at a record high: 825. Of those, 177 people are in the ICU and 128 are on ventilators. Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says 95% of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated.
"The vaccine is extremely effective and an amazing tool for protecting the population," Kesterman said. "While yes, there are breakthrough cases, generally speaking they are significantly less serious cases. Most people who get COVID, if they've been vaccinated, are having minor symptoms, so it's really important to continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated."
Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says Hamilton County is dealing with more than 21,000 active cases. Last week, that number was 11,700.
"Without a top of the mountain in sight, we continue to grow day after day, so our teams are busy responding to outbreaks and providing information to the public and we continue to see a lot of continued growth of this pandemic in our community."
Gov. Mike DeWine is deploying 1,250 National Guard troops to Ohio hospitals struggling with worker shortages. However, nearly half of those Guard members are unvaccinated, meaning most of the troops can't be deployed on hospital missions.
The National Guard will be setting up two COVID-19 testing sites in southwest Ohio within the next week according to Kesterman. One of them will be located in Hamilton County.
According to the CDC COVID Data Tracker, 25 deaths have occurred in Hamilton County over the past seven days due to COVID-19. The Greater Cincinnati region has a positivity rate of 26.5% as of January 3, 2022.
In an interview with WVXU Monday, Cincinnati Health Department medical director Grant Mussman says the city needs a public mask mandate again to reduce viral spread.