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Yes, COVID cases are rising, but it's not as dire as it sounds, health commissioner says


Viral transmission levels have gone up in most counties throughout Greater Cincinnati, however their CDC Community Levels are still low.

Community levels are determined by new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days; the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients; and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days.

Greater Cincinnati's county hospitals are reporting bed occupancy between 1.3-2%. Meanwhile, they range from 36-98 cases per 100,000 people.

Hamilton County has been seeing roughly 143 cases per day. Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says this is a far cry from what was seen during the omicron surge.

"To put that into perspective, back in early January, we were at 2,470 cases per day," Kesterman said. "While we are seeing an increase, it's very much less than where we were just a few months ago."

Over the past month in Hamilton County, more than 3,000 cases have been reported and 73 people have been hospitalized.

While cases are rising, the reason numbers aren't as high as they were during major surges could be attributed to more vaccines and treatments being made available over time. Kesterman says communities have started learning to live with the ongoing pandemic.

"Even if we see an increase in cases, we anticipate never seeing the same impact on our hospital systems that we saw a year ago or even just a few months ago," Kesterman said.

As of May 15, 64 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized. Of those people, seven are in the ICU and two are on ventilators. More than 900 people were hospitalized between January and February this year.

Messaging from the health department remains the same: If you haven't been vaccinated, get vaccinated and get a booster if you haven't received one. If you're not feeling well, stay at home.

"If you don't have COVID, the flu is circulating in our communities, we have colds right now," Kesterman said. "And if you're around a loved one who is immunocompromised or maybe at higher risk for getting severe illness, you still put them at risk even if you don’t have COVID if you're sick."

The Greater Cincinnati region has a 7.9% COVID-19 positivity rate as of May 15. Last month, the rate was at 2%.

Nearly one million people have died in the United States from COVID-19. It's estimated that roughly 319,000 deaths from the virus could have been averted if all adults had been fully vaccinated. Data shows that Ohio had the fourth highest amount of preventable deaths. Indiana came in at 14th and Kentucky at 15th.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.