Ohio is at a "new stage of the pandemic" where vaccinated Ohioans are safe from the surging delta variant of the coronavirus while unvaccinated are not, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.
The name of the game today is vaccines. This is where we win. This is where we dont win, DeWine said at his first COVID-19 briefing in six weeks. We have two Ohios. We have people who are vaccinated who are very, very safe today. We have people who are unvaccinated who are not safe and are more in peril because of this delta variant.
But DeWine doesn't plan to mandate masks or issue other health orders to stem the latest surge. And while he hasn't ruled out more state incentives to get vaccinated, the Republican governor didn't announce one on Friday.
Individual choice is what we are about at this point in the pandemic because we have the vaccine, DeWine said. Schools are making choices now. We believe in local education, local schools making decisions. Businesses, hospitals are all making decisions based on the facts.
Of the 18,662 people with COVID-19 hospitalized since Jan. 1 in Ohio, 98.4% were not fully vaccinated, the Ohio Department of Health reported Friday. The agency plans to report that number every Thursday.
The most recent round of genomic sequencing of coronavirus test samples show the delta variant is dominant in Ohio. From July 4 to 17, 86.4% of samples sequenced were of the delta variant, up from 1% in May.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the Ohio Department of Healths chief medical officer, said the delta variant is absolutely more contagious."
That simply means it takes less of the virus to go from an infected persons nose and mouth to another persons nose and mouth, Vanderhoff said.
Since June 24, the average number of new cases reported has risen from 265 to 1,473 a day while the number of COVID-19-positive patients receiving treatment in Ohio rose from 307 on June 24 to 857 Thursday.
Ohio got rid of its COVID-19 heat map in May. But a map showing community transmission from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 75 of Ohio's 88 counties have "substantial" or "high" transmission. The CDC recommends all residents of those counties, whether vaccinated or not, wear face masks while indoors in public.
Local health commissioners are prohibited from enacting mask mandates or other sweeping health orders because of Senate Bill 22, passed in March and effective in late June. The new law bars DeWine from declaring an emergency within 60 days of the previous one expiring, which happened June 18.
School districts across the state have been setting their own mask policies in recent weeks, after state officials recommended but not mandated that schools require masks for unvaccinated students and staff. Vanderhoff said if he had a child who was not vaccinated, he would want them to wear a mask.
About 5.8 million Ohioans, or about 49.7% of the state's population, received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Thursday. About 61% of Ohioans over age 18 have received at least one dose, the CDC reported, and 57.3% have been fully vaccinated.
Vaccinations have picked up in recent weeks. About 8,200 first shots were given per day last week, according to state vaccine data. That's up from about 4,300 per day during the second week of July but much less than the 60,370 given per day on average in March.
DeWine said the state is willing to help counties with local vaccine incentives, such as Columbus Public Health's recent $100 offering and satellite vaccination sites.
Jackie Borchardt is the bureau chief 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.
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'Were at a new stage of the pandemic:' 98% of Ohioans hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated - The Cincinnati Enquirer
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