COLUMBUS, Ohio — The latest wave of COVID-19 in Ohio is finding a “second wind” ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Ohio Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday.

What You Need To Know

  • Health officials said COVID-19 case rates continue to rise in Ohio

  • The trends add to officials' concern about large gatherings for Thanksgiving

  • The state expects to provide updated guidance about booster shots soon 

​Hospitals are treating a growing number of patients, as the state reports that more 2,800 are hospitalized and nearly 800 are receiving care in intensive care units, Vanderhoff said during a news conference.

“More people are getting sick and more are being hospitalized, but getting really sick with COVID-19 is a risk we don't need to take because our vaccines are so good and are readily available across the state,” Vanderhoff said.

COVID-19 cases in Ohio have risen by 54% since Nov. 1 as seven-day average cases have increased to 5,179. The Ohio Department of Health reported 6,615 cases on Thursday, which was the highest report since early October. 

He said the state’s hospitals are prepared if the numbers continue to rise, noting that hospital officials remain in daily contact as they coordinate the shifting of equipment to hospitals running low and manage any patients transfers that might be necessary. 

Amid the upward trend in COVID-19 cases, officials are warning residents that holiday gatherings are risky if unvaccinated people gather indoors without masks. 

“If you're still unvaccinated, do yourself and your loved ones a real favor: Get vaccinated now. Don't bring tragedy that can be easily avoided to your family this holiday season,” Vanderhoff said. 

Families should consider limiting the size of their gatherings and opening windows to improve ventilation, Vanderhoff said.

Dr. Joe Gastaldo of OhioHealth, an infectious disease specialist, said he recommends COVID-19 testing around the upcoming holidays and staying home if you have any symptoms. Gastaldo said experts feared that the pandemic could worsen again around this time of year when people mostly gather indoors. 

“We have made great strides getting vaccines into people — 85% of those 65 and older are reported to be fully vaccinated. That's wonderful, but we still have to worry about those other 15%. Within our 88 counties, there is different vaccine uptake from county to county,” he said. 

As a federal advisory panel prepares to meet Friday for a discussion about expanding vaccine booster shots to all adults, Ohio is ready to make those shots available to a larger group of its residents as soon as a recommendation is made, Vanderhoff said. 

The state will not “jump the gun” and recommend boosters for all in advance of a change to the authorization, Vanderhoff said. 

“We're really very confident that the process will work as it is designed to work and that we will have guidance to share more broadly as we head into the weekend,” he said.

Booster shots are helping to reduce mild and asymptomatic infections among residents, while also adding another layer of protection for those with certain risk factors, Vanderhoff said.