​​​COLUMBUS, Ohio — The counties in Ohio reporting the most COVID-19 cases have vaccination rates well below the statewide average, Ohio Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday.

What You Need To Know

  • COVID-19 cases in Ohio have increased more than 25 times since early July, Dr. Vanderhoff said

  • Experts in Ohio are warning the public that hospitals are becoming busy with COVID-19
  • The counties with the highest-case rates have low rates of vaccination, state data shows

Ohio’s COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 residents for the last two weeks has risen to 443.5, which Vanderhoff said is a more than 25-time increase from early July when the case rate was about 17.

“What we are seeing right now is very troubling and is very reminiscent of our winter surge before vaccines were even available,” Vanderhoff said during a news conference Thursday. 

Five Ohio counties are reporting case rates above 1,000 — Highland, Pike, Adams, Lawrence and Vinton counties. 

“The top five counties where COVID is spreading have between 30 and 40% of their entire population having started the vaccine process, which is demonstrably lower than the statewide vaccination rate of all Ohioans, which is around 52%,” Vanderhoff said. 

In Ohio, children are becoming hospitalized with COVID-19 at a higher rate than previous months of the pandemic, according to Dr. Hector Wong, who is the head of critical care at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

“Something of a silver lining about a year ago was that the kids were getting infected, but weren’t getting particularly sick. That’s starting to change now,” he said. “We're starting to see kids coming into the hospital and into the ICU, who are otherwise well. As far as we know, they have no comorbidities and are getting sick from COVID. It feels very, very different.”



Inpatient Medical Director of Central Ohio Primary Care Hospitalists Dr. Brian Taylor told reporters that hospitals are being challenged by high patient counts amid staff shortages.

Health care workers in Ohio are becoming increasingly busy with COVID-19 patients, who represent one in eight of all hospitalizations statewide and account for one in four hospitalizations in rural hospitals, the doctors said.

“They’ve been working really hard for the last 18 months. They really appreciated all the support that we had back in March and April of last year. They understood and appreciated the sacrifices the public was making,” Taylor said. 

Now, there is increasing frustration among hospital staff, as they are tasked with caring for a growing number of patients, most of whom are unvaccinated. In central Ohio, between 80 to 90% of patients are unvaccinated, and in the intensive care units, it’s above 90%, Taylor said.

“It is frustrating to see a large number of patients who are unvaccinated and are sick with COVID,” he said.