CLARK COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – With COVID-19 cases on the rise across the state, health officials said it is not time to panic, but Ohioans still can’t let their guards down.
The state’s COVID-19 dashboard shows cases increased by 13% to a rate of 167 cases per 100,000 people. Ohio needs to average 50 cases per 100k people for all health orders to be lifted.
Clark County is leading in the state with the highest occurrence of COVID-19, with 317 cases per 100,000 population.
“Ohio remains in a race against a virus that is now more contaigious and is right back on our heels,” Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said.
Vanderhoff said Ohio’s upturn in cases is largely due to variants, especially the UK variant found in Michigan.
“Our variant counts have jumped from 92 on March 12, to 173 March 19, to and of course, now today, 620,” Vanderhoff said.
Premier Health Regional Medical Director Dr. Joseph Allen said a number factors are driving the spread in Ohio.
“Folks have got a little lax in with some of their masks and social distancing and travel and all the things we were doing a very good job of the last year, we’re starting to push the boundaries on that a little bit,” Allen said.
Allen said time will tell if the uptick is a long-term trend, and health officials will be keeping a close eye on the data.
“The next two weeks it starts to fall off, the peak drops down, it’s a little bump, a blip in the data, as opposed to a significant increase, then I wouldn’t be as worried,” Allen said.
Dr. Allen said as thousands of vaccine doses go into the arms of Ohioans each day, that will be the best offense against COVID-19 and its variants.
“If we do that well, we don’t have to worry about what Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky’s doing,” Allen said.
Both Allen and Vanderhoff said that people must continue to wear their masks and practice social distancing to prevent cases from continuing to rise.
Vanderhoff said the variant cases are primarily being found in the northwestern part of Ohio, closer to Michigan.
Health experts said the test positivity rate and hospitalizations are also up across Ohio.