COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff on Thursday commented on the latest data on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ohio, which shows a worsening situation in the state as cases and hospitalizations rise to “very high” levels.

Ohio’s top doctor said the latest analysis of hospitalization data shows 22% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Ohio over the past two weeks are under 50 years old and 13% are under 40.

The number of patients currently in intensive care – 1,177 – is also almost as bad as it’s ever been during the nearly two-year-long pandemic, which was 1,318 ICU patients at one time about a year ago.

“Our data continues to show that most hospitalizations and deaths are actually among individuals who are not fully vaccinated,” Vanderhoff said, “with about 95% of all hospitalizations having occurred among the unvaccinated.”

Vanderhoff also reminded Ohioans of the “powerful tool” available to them to fight the coronavirus: vaccination.

“I’ve heard too many stories from physicians and nurses treating patients who have then begged for the vaccine when fighting the virus in the hospital,” he said, “but by then it’s too late. Making the choice to be vaccinated right now can keep you out of the hospital, and more importantly, out of the obituary pages.”

Vanderhoff encouraged fully vaccinated Ohioans to get their booster dose of the vaccine, since immunity can wane over time. Boosters are available for people aged 16 and up.

“Receiving a timely booster dose now — if you’re eligible — has been shown to restore those antibody levels and will provide significant protection,” he said.

Vanderhoff was joined in his Thursday press conference by Worthington pharmacist Aimee O’Reilly and Dr. Steven Gordon of the Cleveland Clinic Department of Infectious Disease.  

As of Thursday, Dec. 16, a total of 1,819,342 (+11,803) coronavirus cases have been reported in Ohio, leading to 91,800 (+391) hospitalizations and 11,314 (+25) admissions into the ICU. An additional 7,786 people have begun the vaccination process — 58.95% of all Ohioans — for a total of 6,891,125.   

ODH announced daily case numbers Tuesday through Thursday will be artificially inflated as a result of a laboratory reporting backlog. A backlog of 7,699 positive COVID-19 cases will be added to the 24-hour daily case change as the files are processed.

ODH reported 223 deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total to 27,594. The state is updating the number only after death certificates have been processed, usually twice a week.

Including the backlog, the 21-day case average was sitting at more than 7,000. The rate hadn’t been over 6,000 since Oct. 6.