State health officials reported 2,742 new cases of COVID-19 in the past hours and 111 new admissions to hospitals. The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus has risen to nearly 12-hundred, the highest since the beginning of March.
Ohio medical director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says the growth is driven in part by the rise of more transmissible variants. He says the name of cases caused by the variants has risen from 92 a month ago to 797 today. He says that growth is comparable to what recently swept through Europe -- with two key differences.
"Our spring surge of variants here in Ohio is in fact happening in a better context than what the UK endured this winter because of our very successful vaccination effort - now with more than one third of all Ohioans having received a vaccine. And paired with that, a strong track record of masking in public."
Comparing fighting the pandemic to a race of inoculation vs. variation, Vanderhoff says Ohio has been been more fortunate than Michigan, which is currently battling one of the worst waves of COVID-19 in the country.
"We in Ohio have the benefit of having a period of weeks of head start of vaccine before B.1.1.7. really began gaining traction. And that is crucial time. So I am not anticipating the experience in Ohio is going to mimic what we've seen in Michigan. Nevertheless, that is completely dependent on us continuing to do a very good job with our masking and distancing, as well as our vaccination."
The 2-week average of cases per 100,000 residents in Ohio, which had been declining since the start of the year, has risen again to 183. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine had promised - when numbers were declining - that when the statewide average dropped to 50 cases per 100,000 residents all remaining statewide restrictions and mandates would be lifted. He says there is no reason to revise that number, but it's important to focus on expanding the pool of vaccination.
Three-point-nine million Ohioans have started the vaccine process, and clinics are ramping up at colleges and universities. Local health departments and other providers are arranging clinics for 16- and 17-year olds in high schools. And beginning Monday, vaccine providers can begin "closed pod" clinics organized by businesses, churches and other groups.