COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said Ohioans live in a state with two groups of people: “Those vaccinated that are safe, and sadly those who are not vaccinated and are not safe."
As of Friday, when DeWine made the pronouncement, 60% of all Ohio adults have been vaccinated, as well as 58% of children ages 12-17.
DeWine and health officials urged Ohioans to get vaccinated as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise with the prevalence of the highly contagious delta variant.
Since January, the overwhelming majority of those who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 have been unvaccinated, with 18,367 unvaccinated people hospitalized and only 295 vaccinated people being hospitalized, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
Although cases are on the rise, so is vaccination. DeWine said all 88 Ohio counties have seen an increase in vaccinations compared to last month, but Ohio Department of Health chief medical officer Bruce Vanderhoff said more Ohioans need to get vaccinated in order to curb the delta variant.
In May, less than 1% of COVID cases in the state were the more powerful delta variant, according to ODH. The most recent data from July 4-17 shows 86.47% of cases were the delta variant.
The delta variant is a more aggressive form of COVID-19 that carries a higher viral load than the previous form of the virus, making it more contagious and harmful. Still, ODH said all three vaccines on the market work to protect people from becoming seriously ill from the virus and slows the community spread.
"The delta variant is now more contagious than the common cold or the flu," Vanderhoff said. "Delta is reproducing itself, making more copies of itself, much more quickly once it gets inside of our bodies. This likely explains why ... delta makes patients sicker quicker."
While transmission of the virus is stunted by the vaccine, it's still possible to pass it on if you're vaccinated. This is why Vanderhoff asked vaccinated Ohioans to consider taking a “layered approach” to COVID until the vaccine is available to children under the age of 12.
“While we are in that holding period, it really is incumbent upon those of us who can be vaccinated to be thinking about what we do with our families in public places and in our schools to protect those who do not have the option to get vaccinated,” Vanderhoff said. “Having everyone mask, maintaining distance between people, maintaining good hand hygiene and thinking very carefully about good ventilation.”
DeWine is leaving the decision to mandate masks up to the school districts. The leeway has produced mixed policies across the Tri-State, despite Cincinnati Children's Hospital, the Ohio Education Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other state and local health agencies recommending masks for kids in school.
Cincinnati Public Schools voted Wednesday to require masks for the 2021-2022 school year, while the Oak Hills School District is not requiring masks. The Sycamore Community School Board of Education agreed Wednesday to allow the district superintendent to set a mask policy for each school on a week-by-week basis, depending on case numbers.