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Hamilton County officials say they're prepared for new COVID variants

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Hamilton County Health Department
COVID cases in Hamilton County were at record highs earlier this year and have dropped significantly since then.

Local health officials say Hamilton County is well-equipped to handle new variants of COVID-19. The BA.2 subvariant is causing a big surge in some parts of the world, and officials have already confirmed the more infectious variant is in the U.S.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says they've learned a lot over the last two years.

"Early on, we had no PPE, we didn't know anything about how to treat people; we didn't have any antivirals, no vaccine. This time, we have all four of those tools," Kesterman said. "So it's the hope that if we see COVID come back into our community, we won't have to take the drastic measures again."

As NPR reports, BA.2 is a strain of the omicron variant that appears to spread about 30% more easily. Some experts have warned a new U.S. surge is likely.

In Ohio, about 66% of people eligible to get the shot have been vaccinated. The rate is much higher for older adults; only 30% of Ohioans age 19 or younger are vaccinated.

Local interest in the vaccine has plummeted. The county vaccination team has gone from 44 nurses at the height of vaccine distribution to just 10 nurses now.

Kesterman says virus spread in the area is very low at the moment, especially in Hamilton County.

"If you are autoimmune deficient or have other illnesses, you probably want to talk to your doctor; you might still want to wear a mask," he said. "But otherwise, I think we're kind of back to a new normal here in Hamilton County."

Most counties in the Cincinnati area are at the CDC's lowest level of transmission. Northern Kentucky's Boone and Bracken counties are in the medium spread category.