Illnesses, COVID-19 included, on the rise amid holiday gatherings

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Posted at 7:11 PM, Dec 20, 2021

Just a few days before Christmas, some families are still battling illnesses contracted at Thanksgiving and throughout the month of December, including COVID-19.

The Ohio Department of Health reported another increase in positive COVID-19 cases Monday afternoon. The omicron variant accounted for .26% of those infections, according to ODH records.

Meanwhile, doctors are signaling a warning for families across the region.

"I think it's a red flag regardless of the time of year," said Dr. Chris Peltier, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics Ohio Chapter. "We're seeing increases in all illnesses. We're definitely seeing a rise in COVID. But, we're also seeing increases in strep throat and other viruses like influenza. It's sort of this perfect storm of we're already stretched thin with health care resources and there is so much illness right now."

In Adams County, Jody Waldron's family of eight is too sick to leave home and face a holiday unlike any they've experienced.

"I am not going to lie. (COVID-19) didn't scare me until I got it," he said. "I live out in the middle of nowhere and it's like you feel safe out here, and then you're not."

Less than a month ago, Waldron said his stepdaughter caught COVID-19 after a Thanksgiving gathering.

Afterward, he collected tests for his family, hoping the family wouldn't see indications the virus had spread. Last week, though, things turned one day after Waldron started his new job in HVAC repair.

"I went in and told my boss that something didn't feel right and I had a test," Waldron said. "I went to the car to take it. It came back positive. About every five days one of (my family members) tests positive. Our one son that didn't test positive, he's still stuck at home. The hardest thing is the isolation. I've never really been sick ever until this. So, it's new to me."

Waldron said his family, who are all unvaccinated, will likely isolate and celebrate their holiday when everyone recovers.

"It is no joke. People (are) taking it a lot more lightly now, like it's normal or whatever,"said Waldron. "It ain't normal."

A staffing shortage caused by illnesses closed Mt. Healthy Schools on Monday, three days before the district's scheduled Christmas break, after the district ran out of substitutes. The campus will now reopen to staff January 3 and students return January 5.

Because Mt. Healthy staff will be away from campus more than 10 days, none will have to test for COVID-19 in order to return to work, a district spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Mt. Healthy Schools said it is not clear if COVID-19 is the cause of any of their staff illnesses. The district last reported positive cases 10 days ago.

However, the zip code around their schools, 45231, had more positive cases than any other in Hamilton County, according to public health data published online.

"We're all tired of this, right, parents, families, teachers, pediatricians," Peltier said. "It's exhausting, but unfortunately we have to keep our guard up. I think it's important to ask the questions if you're going to be gathering for the holidays: what's the vaccination status of the people that you're going to be getting together with? Are they going to be wearing masks? Have you been sick in the last couple of days? Remember that although we're able to vaccinate a lot more people down to age 5, there's still 25% to 30% of my practice that's under the age of 5 that we can't protect."