CINCINNATI — As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise again in the Tri-State region, questions of whether it's unsafe to venture out to that bar or movie theater have begun to circulate once more.
"It's hard, like you don't want to just stay in and take it easy," said Ricci Linneman, a patron at the Banks. "You want the still enjoy life and it's hard, you have to make a decision. Do we stay in and not do anything? Or do you go out and take a chance?"
The omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has created a surge of cases following the holiday season, but experts have said it's less deadly than its predecessor, the delta variant.
Omicron is still more contagious, aiding in the spike of cases statewide that has disrupted workplaces and made it tougher to find a COVID-19 at-home test or testing site without an hours-long wait.
"It somewhat feels like the very beginning of the pandemic, we restarted, " said Dr. Steve Feagins, medical director for Hamilton County Public Health and chief clinical officer for Mercy Health. "In January, we're kind of back to where we were."
The difference between this January and surges in cases in January 2021 has been the availability of vaccines, which significantly reduce a person's chance of being hospitalized or placed on a ventilator.
"I feel that it's not that bad if you are vaccinated," said Brooke McFarland, a Cincinnati patron at the Banks. "If you do end up getting it, I feel like it's, you know, cold symptoms and you do what you're supposed to by the CDC and stay away from people so you don't make anybody else sick."
Feagins and other health experts said they expect to see the COVID-19 case surge continue in the coming weeks and advises people to mask up, avoid large crowds and get vaccinated to avoid an infection completely.
"Think twice about going into large crowds, even small crowds, especially indoors," said Feagins. "Think about the density, how many people are around you, think about the ventilation, just how ventilated is that area and, more importantly, think about the barrier, which is a mask."