Ohio health officials on Thursday cautioned against too much optimism that Ohio has reached its peak of the current omicron variant wave.
“Thankfully we are seeing many signs of improvements in many of Ohio’s hardest-hit areas,” Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff said. “But the reality is that many other parts of the state are still on the rise of this omicron tidal wave.”
Ohio has seen improvements in COVID-19 hospitalization numbers after breaking daily records multiple times earlier this month. Since a week ago, the number of Ohioans currently in the hospital with COVID-19 has been on a steady decline.
Northeast Ohio, the hardest hit, has seen the steepest declines with around a 24% drop over the last ten days. As of Wednesday, 5,889 Ohioans were in hospitals with the virus.
Ohio health experts have predicted that the current wave of the more contagious omicron variant would slowly trend down in Ohio toward the end of January.
The situation is still dire, however, Vanderhoff said. Hospitalization and COVID-19 levels are still above the previous winter surge when vaccines were only just becoming available. Ohio is still getting north of 20,000 positive COVID-19 tests every day.
And other regions of the state are seeing increases. Southwest Ohio saw a 14% increase and western Ohio saw a 13% increase in COVID-19 ICU admissions over the prior week.
“Things continue in our Dayton area to be very critical,” said Roberto Colon, chief medical officer of Miami Valley Hospital. “The pace of new cases has not yet slowed down like we have seen in other areas…it is tremendously taxing to our staff.”
More than 2,000 Ohio National Guard members are still deployed to help hospitals understaffed and overwhelmed by COVID-19. They will soon be shifted to other areas of the state, said Major General John C. Harris, Jr., head of the Ohio National Guard, with 400 moving from northeast Ohio to the Dayton and Cincinnati area.
Assistance from the federal level has arrived and is coming. President Joe Biden sent 20 Air Force medical professionals to Cleveland Clinic. Details have yet to come on the Federal Emergency Management Agency sending a team to help out Summa Health in Akron.
Testing demand has decreased in northeast Ohio as the situation improves slightly. But statewide and nationwide, the demand is causing strain on supplying COVID-19 tests.
This month, Ohio ordered 1.2 million testing kits, but only a fraction has been delivered, said Vanderhoff. Once shipments arrive, 400,000 testing kits can be distributed with priority going to schools.
“It’s likely that the state’s ability to provide tests could be intermittently affected,” Vanderhoff said.
Titus Wu is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.