CINCINNATI — The number of new COVID-19 cases and people in the hospital with infections reached record levels Wednesday, according to Hamilton County public health leaders.
New data showed a new single-day high almost double the 716 case total recorded in December 2020.
"We are on Mt. Everest with 1,472 cases of (coronavirus) in our community without a top of the mountain in sight," Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said. "We continue to grow day after day."
Kesterman, along with Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus and Dr. Richard Lofgren, Chief Executive Officer for UC Health, spoke about the tremendous surge in COVID-19 infections during a Zoom call with media on Wednesday.
At the same time, hospitalizations from the virus hit an all-time high and the percentage of people testing positive rose to 27%, according to county data.
"Every single community in Hamilton County: east side, west side, north side, everywhere has a significant spread of COVID right now," Kesterman said. "We know that it's spreading rapidly and we know that if you're not taking precautions it won't be long before COVID catches up with you."
Dr. Richard Lofgren, Chief Executive Officer for UC Health, said his health care systems saw higher percentages of staff infected or quarantined in recent weeks. An average of 300 each day required testing last weekend, Lofgren said.
UC Health currently faces staff shortages with frontline workers worn down from months of double-shifts and overtime, he added. Periodically, the hospital closes beds when patient demand surges and staffing falls short of levels able to meet health care system standards, Lofgren said.
"The pandemic is not over," he added. "In fact, it is heating up more and more intense than it ever has been in the entire almost two years that we've been wrestling with this."
COVID-19 cases are doubling every 2-to-4 days since the omicron variant became prevalent in the area, according to Dr. Lofgren. He said the number of hospitalizations that were admitted to Intensive Care Units during the peak of the delta variant was 25 percent. With omicron, that number is less, at 15 percent.
But omicron is much more contagious. Delta was twice as contagious as the first cases of COVID-19 in the US. Omicron is 2-to-4 times as contagious as delta.
In order to avoid the onslaught of patients crippling health care systems in northeastern Ohio, local public health leaders repeated old pleas for increased use of masks, social distancing, better hand hygiene, along with vaccinations and booster shots for anyone eligible.
Without such measures, they think record-breaking trends continue.
"It's astounding to me that these numbers are so high," Denise Driehause, Hamilton County Commissioner said. "It's a wake up call. We need to practice what we know works, which is staying home when you're sick, masking and keeping a safe distance."
Lofgren said the situation has been hard due to the tremendous labor shortage in the health care industry.
Kesterman said omicron was the perfect variant to spread if the population is tired of COVID-19, because of how highly contagious it is and how easily it spreads.
"It lives on the surface a bit more" Lofgren said. "It's in the air a bit more, which is why masking becomes important. I think one of the things we need to recognize, it's how effective the vaccine is. It's not going to keep you from getting COVID, but it will still keep you out of the Emergency Room."
For vaccine and testing locations, visit the Test and Protect Cincinnati website.