State: Delta surge appears to have plateaued, but too early to declare victory

While the delta surge of COVID-19 appears to have plateaued, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff warned Thursday it’s too early to declare victory.

“We have to remain vigilant,” Vanderhoff said, noting cases and hospitalizations remain high in the state.

Though he expects the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to meet regarding emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 soon, this is not the time to give up, he said.

Ohio reported 323 daily hospitalizations on Tuesday and 4,456 daily cases. A year ago, the state’s daily hospitalizations was 123 and about 1,400 cases, Vanderhoff said.

“We are higher than we were a year ago,” Vanderhoff said. “But I remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll continue to see our cases decline as we move forward.”

He also reminded Ohioans that hospital and ICU data can lag, with death data taking weeks and months to confirm.

“We may not know the full impact of this surge numerically for some time,” Vanderhoff said. However, he added the state is continuing to hear from hospital officials as health care workers feel impact of the pandemic in real-time.

As Ohio waits for word on EUA for the Pfizer vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, the state is working with partners to make sure it’s ready to start administering doses if and when authorization is given.

“What has been submitted by Pfizer for authorization involves a different dose of vaccine,” Vanderhoff said. “So it’s going to be a little bit different in terms of the operational steps. But we’re working. We’re going to be ready from an operational point of view for launch whenever that green light might be provided.”

It isn’t clear if or when the vaccine will receive authorization, but Vanderhoff thinks it’s getting “very, very close.”

“As I look ahead at some of the scheduling I see for the FDA advisory committee and the [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices], really it looks to me that they are planning to have those meetings occur by the beginning of November,” he said. “So that’s very, very encouraging.”

With cooler temperatures and winter holidays coming, Vanderhoff warned it’s especially important for Ohioans to protect themselves against COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.

Though Vanderhoff said he can’t predict whether Ohio will experience another winter surge, he noted coronavirus by its nature spreads more readily during winter months.

“As we look ahead to winter, if nothing else, delta has taught us very important lessons about coping with winter respiratory viruses,” he said. “I don’t think we can let our guard down.”

He encouraged people to get flu and COVID-19 vaccines and consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces. Vanderhoff also stressed good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, as well as staying home when sick.

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