COVID transmission rate continues to decline in Ohio

Coronavirus cases are continuing to decline, with Ohio’s two-week cases per 100,000 people dropping from 560.5 cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 7 to 507.4 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday, according to the state health department (Source: “Ohio continues to see decrease in COVID-19 transmission rate,” Dayton Daily News, Oct. 14).

The transmission rate has been declining for at least three weeks and has decreased by nearly 200. On Sept. 23, Ohio reported 698.7 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks.

As of Thursday, only five counties had more than 1,000 cases per 100,000: Guernsey, Coshocton, Muskingum, Gallia and Jackson counties. On Sept. 23, Ohio had 30 counties with more than 1,000 cases per 100,000.

More than 54.5% of Ohioans have started the COVID-19 vaccine, including 65.97% of adults and 63.88% of those 12 and older. Nearly 51% of residents have finished the vaccine, including 61.66% of adults and 59.56% of Ohioans 12 and older.

COVID-19 surge begins to show signs of easing

A two-month surge in COVID-19 infections in Ohio appears to be easing, state data shows (Source: “COVID-19 surge begins to ease in Ohio,” Ohio Capital Journal, Oct. 8).

On Oct. 1, the average rate of new infections by day fell to about 5,000, down from a recent high of about 7,400 per day in mid-September.

While less pronounced, the number of patients in the hospital on a given day with COVID-19 has declined as well. Fewer than 3,400 Ohioans are hospitalized with the disease as of Thursday, compared to about 3,700 in late September.

Of all COVID-19 tests taken statewide, an average of 12% are coming back positive as of Thursday, compared to about 14% in September.

The disease continues to spread at high rates, even compared to the peaks seen in late 2020. There’s also no telling how significantly the pandemic will continue to ebb. Regardless, the declines are a ray of optimistic news amid a summer and fall unexpectedly dominated by the Delta variant of the coronavirus that causes the disease.

COVID-related depression and anxiety are improving, still higher than pre-pandemic

While Americans reported heightened symptoms of anxiety and depression during the pandemic peaking last winter, their symptoms had improved by this past June, according to a new CDC study (Source: “COVID nearly doubled self-reported anxiety symptoms,” Axios, Oct. 6).

Still, Americans reported their anxiety and depression symptoms are still higher than they were before the pandemic. The average anxiety severity score increased 13% from late August to December 2020 and then decreased nearly 27% from December to late May and early June this year.

About a fifth of U.S. adults still experience high levels of psychological distress, per the Pew Research Center, especially adults under 29, those with lower income or adults with a disability or health conditions.

Ohio House leaders send vaccine bill back to drawing board

The Ohio House of Representatives on Wednesday delayed a vote on a bill supported by its Republican leaders that would allow businesses to mandate coronavirus vaccines, yet would also allow broad exemptions for employees to avoid getting shots (Source: “Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp announces his coronavirus vaccine bill is back to drawing board,”, Sept. 30).

After it faced opposition from business and medical organizations, Democrats and some Republicans, House Bill 435 was sent back to the Ohio House Rules and Reference Committee, where more work will be done, said Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp, a Lima Republican.

Under HB 435, as currently written, public and private employees, as well as public and private K-12 and college students could be subject to coronavirus vaccine mandates. However, they could be exempted for medical reasons, for demonstrating natural immunity to the coronavirus and for religious reasons and reasons of conscience. The religious exemption is broad, as it would only require a statement by the believer and not a letter from clergy.

CDC OKs COVID vaccine booster for workers at risk

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday overruled a recommendation by an agency advisory panel that had refused to endorse booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for frontline workers (Source: “C.D.C. Chief Overrules Agency Panel and Recommends Pfizer-BioNTech Boosters for Workers at Risk,” New York Times, Sept. 24).

It was a highly unusual move for the director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, but aligned CDC policy with the Food and Drug Administration’s endorsements over her own agency’s advisers.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Thursday recommended the boosters for a wide range of Americans, including tens of millions of older adults and younger people at high risk for the disease. But they excluded health care workers, teachers and others whose jobs put them at risk. That put their recommendations at odds with the FDA’s authorization of booster shots for all adults with a high occupational risk.

The White House could begin promoting and rolling out a plan for booster shots as soon as Friday. 

DeWine announces new vaccine incentive for ages 12 to 25

Ohioans age 12 to 25 will be eligible to win a $100,000 college scholarship for getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot, Gov. DeWine announced Thursday (Source: “'Vax-2-School': Ohioans age 12 to 25 can win $100,000 college scholarships for getting a COVID-19 vaccine,” Columbus Dispatch, Sept. 24).

Five $100,000 scholarships and 50 $10,000 scholarships will be given away over five days from Oct. 11 to 15, according to DeWine. The money can be used for college or vocational education.

People who have already been vaccinated will be eligible and will have to sign up for the drawing in advance, but that process has not yet been set up. The scholarships will be paid for with federal coronavirus relief money.

About 46% of Ohioans age 12 to 25 have been vaccinated compared to 84% of Ohioans age 65 and over. More than 32,000 K-12 students have tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19 this school year.

Ohio COVID hospitalizations triple this time last year, ODH director says

The Delta variant is continuing to drive an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations with the number of hospitalizations reported Wednesday in Ohio nearly triple the amount reported a year ago, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday (Source: “Ohio’s daily COVID hospitalizations nearly triple vs. year ago, Vanderhoff says,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 16).

On Wednesday, ODH reported 7,747 new daily cases of COVID and 292 daily hospitalizations. A year ago, on Sept. 15, 2020, the state reported just over 1,000 daily cases and 103 hospitalizations, he said.

“Even though about half of us today are well protected by vaccination, our daily hospitalizations are about triple what they were last year,” Vanderhoff said. “And the reason is simple. The Delta variant is aggressively seeking out anyone who lacks immunity and is making many of them very sick.”

More than half of states have rolled back public health powers, analysis finds

Republican legislators in more than half of U.S. states, including Ohio, spurred on by voters angry about lockdowns and mask mandates, are taking away the powers state and local officials use to protect the public against infectious diseases (Source: “Over Half of States Have Rolled Back Public Health Powers in Pandemic,” Kaiser Health News, Sept. 15).

A Kaiser Health News review of hundreds of pieces of legislation found that, in all 50 states, legislators have proposed bills to curb such public health powers since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While some governors vetoed bills that passed, at least 26 states pushed through laws that permanently weaken government authority to protect public health. In three additional states, an executive order, ballot initiative or state Supreme Court ruling limited long-held public health powers. More bills are pending in a handful of states whose legislatures are still in session.

In at least 16 states, legislators have limited the power of public health officials to order mask mandates, or quarantines or isolation. In some cases, they gave themselves or local elected politicians the authority to prevent the spread of infectious disease. At least 17 states passed laws banning covid vaccine mandates or passports, or made it easier to get around vaccine requirements. At least nine states have new laws banning or limiting mask mandates. Executive orders or a court ruling limit mask requirements in five more.

Biden unveils vaccine mandate for 100 million American workers

President Biden on Thursday ordered sweeping new federal vaccine requirements for as many as 100 million Americans — private-sector employees as well as healthcare workers and federal contractors — in an all-out effort to curb the surging COVID-19 delta variant (Source: “Sweeping new vaccine mandates for 100 million Americans,” Associated Press via Dayton Daily News, Sept. 9).

Speaking at the White House, Biden sharply criticized the tens of millions of Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of availability and incentives.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us," he said. The unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.

Biden is also requiring vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.

COVID vaccination rates for Medicaid enrollees lag overall population

Medicaid enrollees are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at far lower rates than the overall population as states search for the best strategies to improve access to the shots and persuade those who remain hesitant (Source: “Medicaid vaccination rates founder as states struggle to immunize their poorest residents,” Kaiser Health News via Ohio Capital Journal, Sept. 1).

Efforts by state Medicaid agencies and the private health plans that most states pay to cover their low-income residents have been challenging amid a lack of access to state data about which members are immunized. The problems reflect the decentralized nature of the health program, funded largely by the federal government but managed by the states.

It also points to the difficulty in getting the message to Medicaid populations about the importance of the COVID vaccines and the challenges they face getting care.