SENECA COUNTY, Ohio — The nation continues to grapple with the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacted its cost both in loss of human life and national economic insecurity.
Now nearing two years into the pandemic, there have been 762,994 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States with a current seven-day case rate of 181.2 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control at the time of publication.
Even as the vaccine was dispersed, many have refused to take it, prompting fierce national debates regarding mandates and the weighing of individual freedom against public health.
Anne Goon, the Seneca County Health Department’s health commissioner, recently spoke with Spectrum News about the ongoing challenges in her county.
“So right now, looking at cases, we’re ranked No. 4 in the state, unfortunately,” she said. “So our numbers keep going up right now.”
Like many other counties, Seneca is both below the state average in vaccination rates while also maintaining a recent hospitalization rate and case rate as a percentage of population higher than the state average.
The county has attempted to promote the various benefits of vaccination on social media, but its vaccine rate still ranks lower than the state average.
“In our Facebook posts, we see all kinds of negative comments, no positive comments or very, very few, but lots of negative comments that go on and on,” Goon said.
According to data collected from the Ohio Department of Health, Seneca County has a vaccination rate of 44.10 percent, which is 8.18% lower than the state percentage of completed vaccines at 52.28 percent, at the time of writing.
Meanwhile, from Oct. 12 through Nov. 12, Seneca County showed the following numbers: 917 new cases, 47 hospitalizations and four deaths, according to the ODH.
To compare these numbers to the state average, it is best to look at them as a comparison in the percentage of total population. Seneca County’s population as of the 2020 Census was sitting at 55,069, making the 917 cases in that one-month timeframe account for roughly 1.67% of the total population.
The state of Ohio’s 2020 Census population is at 11,799,448, and the 105,413 positive cases in that same one-month time range account for roughly .89% of the population.
While breakthrough cases can occur in vaccinated individuals, health experts have stated that the vaccine does help avoid hospitalization as a result of a positive case. The state’s hospitalizations (not including deaths) as a percentage of cases for that same time range were roughly 3.75%.
In contrast, Seneca County’s hospitalizations (not including deaths) as a percentage of positive cases for the same time period was roughly 5.13%, or 1.38% higher than the state’s rate as a whole.
To add to the challenges here, the county has a single hospital: Mercy Hospital in Tiffin.
Nan Sauber, a Tiffin resident, said she has been vaccinated and has already received her booster shot, in contrast to the slight majority of other Seneca County residents who have not yet been fully vaccinated.
“I think it has to do with, again, their education and where they’re getting their information and some of it is political,” she said. “It’s driven politically.”