Ohio broke its record for daily coronavirus cases for the third straight day with 2,518 cases reported Friday (Source: “Coronavirus: Ohio tops 2,500 daily cases, breaks record for third straight day,” Dayton Daily News, Oct. 23).
The previous two records were 2,425 reported Thursday and 2,366 reported Wednesday. In the last two weeks, Ohio broke the state record for daily cases six times.
There have been 192,948 total cases in Ohio throughout the pandemic, according to the state health department.
Ohio reported 184 additional hospitalizations Friday, bringing the total to 17,866. Hospitalization rates have continued to climb the last two weeks in southwest Ohio, with nearly 200 more COVID-19 patients in hospitals. While the state’s hospital beds are not at capacity at this time, health officials are watching to see where hospitalizations will peak. Currently, there’s no indication of where hospitalizations will level off.
Ohio is also reporting the highest number of red counties since the state first announced the Ohio Public Health Advisory System at the end of June. As of Thursday, 74% of Ohioans are living in a level 3, or red, county. Only 1% of Ohioans live in a level 1 county. This is the lowest number of level 1 counties the state has had.
Cigarette tax revenue in Ohio has been significantly higher than expected through September, a troubling sign that Ohioans are smoking and using other tobacco products more during the pandemic (Source: “‘Troubling trend’: Ohioans appear to be smoking more amid pandemic stress,” Dayton Daily News, Oct. 20).
Cigarette excise tax revenue was $16.1 million (21.8%) above what the state had anticipated for September and $23.5 million (13.6%) above estimate for the first quarter of the state fiscal year.
The Ohio Office of Budget and Management said in its monthly budget report that the "substantial overage is likely related to heightened consumption during the continuing pandemic.”
“It’s a very troubling trend because Ohio already has very high rates of tobacco use and it’s a major cause of our poor health outcomes in Ohio,” said Amy Bush Stevens, vice president of Health Policy Institute of Ohio.
Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths. About 20.5% of adults smoked cigarettes in Ohio in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, placing the state as the 11th highest smoking rate in the country.
The coronavirus pandemic is a higher risk time for smokers. Smoking impairs lung function, making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other respiratory diseases. The CDC states being a current or former cigarette smoker increases risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Ohio plans to roll out a coronavirus vaccine in four phases and give the first doses to high-risk health care workers and first responders, according to a draft plan released by the state’s health department (Source: “Ohio’s four-phase plan to distribute coronavirus vaccine prioritizes health care workers and first responders,” Cleveland.com, Oct. 21).
The first phase of the plan also prioritizes patients in long-term care facilities and those at significantly higher risk for developing severe COVID-19 complications due to preexisting conditions, according to the draft plan dated Oct. 16. The state submitted the 61-page plan to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for approval.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to issue emergency use authorization for any COVID-19 vaccine candidate, although public health experts say one could be approved later this fall. But the CDC has cautioned a vaccine could be in short supply after it’s approved because it takes time to manufacture, ship and distribute enough doses.
The second phase of the draft plan calls for the vaccine to be given to health care workers and other essential services workers who are at high risk for exposure. It also includes teachers and school staff members; older Ohioans; and residents with preexisting conditions. People of color, who have been disproportionately harmed by the virus, could also be prioritized during phase two.
The third phase includes young adults; children; and workers in unspecified industries that are critical to the functioning of society. The fourth phase allows all Ohioans to be vaccinated. The plan does not include a timeline for each phase.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday expanded how it defines a “close contact” of someone with Covid-19 as it released new evidence showing the coronavirus can be passed during relatively brief interactions (Source: “CDC expands definition of ‘close contacts,’ after study suggests Covid-19 can be passed in brief interactions,” Stat News, Oct. 21).
Previously, the CDC described a close contact as someone who spent 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone who was infectious. Now, the agency says it’s someone who spent a cumulative 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone who was infectious over 24 hours, even if the time isn’t consecutive, according to an agency spokesperson.
Close contacts are those who are tracked down during contact tracing and are recommended to quarantine.
The announcement from the CDC comes as scientists described in a new study how a correctional officer in Vermont appears to have contracted the coronavirus during “multiple brief encounters” with six incarcerated people who had Covid-19. The infected people were awaiting the results of their Covid-19 tests while the interactions happened.
The Health Policy Institute of Ohio is hosting an online forum Nov. 17 on “Politics, perceptions and the pandemic."
In November, voters will elect a president and members of the Ohio General Assembly. What do the results of those elections mean for the next steps in the pandemic response? The forum will explore what's on the horizon as a result of the 2020 election and the likely impacts on health value, equity and the future of public health.
Keynote speaker at the forum will be Dr. Melinda Buntin, Mike Curb Professor and Chair, Department of Health Policy, Vanderbilt School of Medicine.