COVID-19 cases were well below the 21-day average Monday, according to figures released Monday by the Ohio Department of Health.
A total of 4,519 new coronavirus cases were reported, bringing the total number of cases in the Buckeye State since March to 675,044, with 523,494 recoveries.
The ODH reported that deaths from the virus rose by 62 to 8,571 and that hospitalizations rose as well, increasing by 290 to 37,076.
Presidential medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said the nation was at what he called “a critical place” during the pandemic, and that the worst is probably still ahead.
Appearing on CNN last weekend, he said he feared a post-Christmas and New Year’s surge of the virus, and described it as a “surge upon a surge.”
Over the weekend, Fauci said he now feels the country will need to reach the 80 to 85 percent rate to reach so-called herd immunity, an increase over his earlier estimates which were closer to 70 percent.
In his Monday social media update, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said the county’s case counts reflected the statewide trend, with a current rate of 834.09 cases per 100,000 residents.
“This trend downward in case count is very encouraging, though we remain concerned about holiday get togethers creating additional cases over the next couple of weeks,” he wrote. “This is the first time we have been below 200 active cases in quite a while. Hopefully this is a trend we can continue.”
He said that hospitalization rates continued to be level after the rapid rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations that were seen in October and November, noting that deaths continue to be high, though that situation may be leveling out.
“These lagging indicators are often delayed a few weeks from any case surge, so this leveling off is expected based on the similar reductions we have seen in our new case counts,” Warner wrote.
He confirmed that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine had been delivered to the health department, and that vaccinations of county emergency services groups would resume Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We are also actively working to collect information from other Phase 1A groups that have been prioritized for vaccines,” he wrote. “As a reminder, Phase 1A is focused on high risk occupations and high-risk settings. We are currently working to include our EMS, long-term care, and hospital partners. We are also starting to plan with our congregate settings to vaccinate their staff, and in some cases, their residents as well.”
He indicated his office was waiting on final guidance from the governor’s office as to how Phase 1B will be implemented, writing that there was some discussion about addressing this next phase a little differently in Ohio than what the federal guidelines recommend.
He said that vaccine supplies are still very limited and that at this time no one can be placed on a waiting list. He wasn’t sure when his staff would be transitioning into Phase 1B. Warner wrote. “I am guessing that we will continue to receive limited vaccine delivery amounts for the month of January. We will be tracking our vaccine administration counts for Highland County residents through the state’s reporting dashboard. Currently we have had 38 doses provided in Highland County.”
Governor Mike DeWine said Tuesday that the next group that will be eligible to receive vaccines in Phase 1B of the state vaccination program will be people 65 and older, which make up more than 90 percent of the state’s reported COVID-19 deaths.
Also included in the vaccine’s second phase, which the state health department hopes to begin by mid-January, will be those living with severe congenital, developmental or early-onset medical disorders
The latest state risk level map update showed that no counties were in Purple Level 4, the state’s highest risk level in Ohio’s COVID-19 advisory system, as of Thursday, with Richland County in northern Ohio being downgraded to Red Level 3 last week.
The map showed every county in Ohio at Red Level 3 status except for the Appalachian counties of Hocking, Vinton, Gallia and Monroe, which are at Orange Level 2.
The ODH dashboard for school infections Thursday:
• Bright Local reported no new student or staff cases with the district’s numbers holding at 11 total student and three total staff cases.
• Fairfield Local reported one new student case, bringing its total of student cases to 15 combined with nine cumulative staff cases, and no new staff cases reported.
• Greenfield Exempted reported no new student or staff cases, with its numbers remaining at 23 and 19 cumulative cases for students and staff, respectively.
• Hillsboro Christian Academy reported no new student or staff cases in its preschool, with one total student case and four total staff cases. The dashboard showed its private school with no new student or staff cases, with the private school COVID-19 numbers still holding at one student and six staff cases cumulatively.
• Hillsboro City Schools reported seven additional student cases and 10 new staff cases, bringing the district’s total student cases to 28 and staff cases to 22.
• Lynchburg-Clay schools reported five new student cases and a single staff case, bringing its cumulative case totals to 21 student and 12 staff cases.
• St. Mary Catholic preschool and private school, along with Stonewall Academy private school, both reported no student or staff cases.
As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that nearly 2 million Americans had received the first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, with nearly 10 million doses having been distributed to states.
The companies reported their vaccines were roughly 95 percent effective.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.