UNION TWP., Ohio — Clermont County reported the second most new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the region Wednesday, according to the Health Collaborative Situational Dashboard.
Outside the public library branch in Union Township, tables typically full of free rapid COVID-19 test kits lie bare. Every county branch is temporarily out of stock. At the same time, people gathering with relatives for the holidays are wary of the spreading virus.
"The first people that catch my eye are the people without masks," Robert Garces, in town from Washington D.C. visiting his grandchildren, said. "It's constantly on our mind, because we want to be sure we are safe."
Soon-to-be published research from South Africa found the omicron variant caused much less severe illness in people vaccinated or previously infected with coronavirus compared to effects caused by the delta variant.
While former Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Tom Frieden suggested people in public indoor spaces consider mask upgrades to N95 standards, Shannon Evans' family plans to go a step further. Her parents are immunosuppressed.
"We are taking every precaution and testing before we get together, if we get together, on Saturday," she said. "I work in health care. So I see the effects of what's been going on. So I want to keep everybody that I love safe."
Based on infectious disease work group recommendations, Dr. Stephen Feagins, Chief Clinical Officer for Mercy Health, said hospital systems in the Tri-State increased their focus on booster shots in the last two weeks.
"We expect now that the surge (of new infections) we'll see in January will exceed the surge that we saw last January," Dr. Feagins said. "It's really incumbent upon us as hospital systems to make sure that no one stays in our system for any period of time who is eligible for boosters and can't get it and desires to do so that we do that."
Combined with pushing vaccination, it is a strategy doctors hope turns the tide.