COVID cases, flu hospitalizations see increases heading into Christmas

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Flu-related hospitalizations becoming more stabilized, outpatient visits decreasing.

Cases of COVID-19 and flu-related hospitalizations are still increasing as Ohioans head into the holiday weekend, though health officials say the region is better positioned this Christmas compared to last year.

“Our COVID hospitalizations are down well over 50% this December over last December,” said Nate Smith, communications coordinator for the Clark County Combined Health District. Smith said Clark County has seen some increases with COVID cases since Thanksgiving, which health officials remain cognizant of heading into Christmas.

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Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said this week the state is not seeing peaks in cases or hospitalizations with COVID the state has seen with the arrival of other new dominant variants in the past.

“Looking at COVID-19 hospitalizations by this time in mid-December of 2020 and 2021, Ohio was experiencing anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people hospitalized every week. This year, the numbers are about 600 a week. So that’s at least a 70% improvement from the past two December’s so there’s certainly good some good news here,” Vanderhoff said.

COVID cases continue to rise

Ohio recorded more than 17,000 COVID-19 cases in the last week, making it the fourth consecutive week the state reported more than 16,000 cases. The state added 17,891 weekly cases on Thursday, bringing its three-week average to 16,890 cases, according to ODH.

It’s also the fourth straight week Ohio reported more than 600 coronavirus hospitalizations. The 666 hospitalizations reported in the last week were the most recorded since ODH added 679 hospitalizations on Aug. 4.

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The Centers for Disease also updated four local counties to a high level of spread of COVID-19, including Montgomery, Greene, Preble, and Darke counties. The rest of the Dayton region remains at a medium level of COVID spread.

“We have seen COVID-19 cases on the rise recently, and we hope to avoid any increases after the holidays,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County. “It is important for individuals to stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 bivalent vaccine, and if you have not been vaccinated at all, it is still not too late to do so. If you are sick, you should not host or go to any holiday gatherings.”

For those attending holiday parties and gatherings, Suffoletto recommended individuals consider taking an at-home COVID-19 test in advance of the event, particularly if at-risk individuals, such as the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, will be present.

For those in a county where there is a high level COVID spread, the CDC recommends wearing a high-quality mask.

“In addition, masking when in close contact with others or in crowds can add an additional layer of protection,” Suffoletto said.

Flu-related hospitalizations see smaller increases

Flu-related hospitalizations throughout the state increased by 12.34%, or 1,347 hospitalizations, in the latest ODH report, but influenza-like illnesses reported in outpatient data decreased by 3.13%.

While flu-related hospitalizations have not yet gone down, they appeared to have stabilized and the state is not seeing sharp increases like it saw the first week of December.

“Hospitalizations from influenza have stabilized in the last couple weeks,” Smith said. Clark County has had 179 flu-related hospitalizations, or 3.3% of all flu-related hospitalizations. This is a rate of 131.62 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.

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Montgomery County has still had the highest number of flu-related hospitalizations, according to the latest ODH data, with 635 hospitalizations, or 11.1% of all flu-related hospitalizations. This is a rate of 118.18 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.

For Butler and Warren counties, there have been 201 and 75 flu-related hospitalizations, respectively. Butler County is experiencing a rate of 51.49 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, and Warren County is experiencing a rate of 30.95 flu-related hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.

Other flu-related hospitalizations in Dayton-region counties include 118 in Greene County, 79 in Miami County, 26 in Champaign County, and 18 in both Darke and Preble counties.

Federal government watching supplies of medication

As respiratory illnesses continue to impact children, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration convened this week with major medicine manufacturers and distributors on the current production and distribution of over-the-counter pediatric medicines. Participants included the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade association representing nationwide manufacturers and distributors of over-the-counter drugs, along with Perrigo and Johnson & Johnson, among others, HHS said.

The companies shared they are running manufacturing facilities 24-7 to meet demand, supplies of these products are being replenished as quickly as possible, and there is no widespread shortage of pediatric medicines, according to HHS.

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HHS is also increasing states’ access to Tamiflu, an antiviral medication used to treat and prevent the flu. HHS is making additional supply of Tamiflu available to states, territories, and tribes through state and national stockpiles.

“We are taking action so that every jurisdiction can meet the increased demand for Tamiflu this flu season,” said Xavier Becerra, HHS secretary. “State stockpiles can be utilized, and if jurisdictions need access to the Strategic National Stockpile, they now have it to respond to the current seasonal flu outbreak.”

“The actions taken today to increase access to Tamiflu show our preparedness system at work,” said Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response . “The country is more prepared for this surge because the (Strategic National Stockpile) holds strategic stores of Tamiflu. As a result, jurisdictions will be able to get the support they need to keep Americans healthy as flu cases rise this winter.”