LIMA — New coronavirus cases in Allen County are increasing rapidly ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, with case rates returning to levels not seen since December 2020.
Allen County has reported 976 cases per 100,000 residents in the two weeks prior to Thursday, indicating very high community transmission of coronavirus at a time when only 42% of residents have started their vaccines, according to Ohio Department of Health data.
The trend brings an end to the delta plateau, which started in late September after weeks of rising cases caused primarily by the highly contagious delta variant of coronavirus.
While many cases earlier this fall were detected among school-aged children and adolescents, cases reported today are widespread across all age groups, said Brandon Fischer, Allen County Health commissioner.
The trend is not limited to Allen County either as other counties in West Central Ohio are seeing high rates of infections, mirroring the events of last winter despite the wide availability of vaccines and boosters.
“The fact that we are seeing more infections during the winter months is not surprising,” because people are spending more time indoors, said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious diseases physician with Ohio Health, who spoke during an Ohio Department of Health press conference on Thursday.
Thursday’s press conference warned of yet another round of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations throughout Ohio ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, as one in seven patients in Ohio hospitals that day were being treated for COVID-19, according to Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Health director.
“More people are getting sick, and more are being hospitalized,” he said. “But getting really sick with COVID-19 is a risk we don’t need to take because the vaccines are so good and are readily available across the state.
“So, if you’re still unvaccinated, do yourself and your loved ones a real favor and get vaccinated now.”
Families can also reduce the risk of spreading the virus during the holidays by limiting the number of guests and hosting gatherings outdoors or opening windows whenever possible, Vanderhoff said.
This will be Lima’s first winter season with at least 40% of the population vaccinated, which will test the strength of vaccine-induced immunity at a time when many remain unvaccinated and masking is no longer the norm.
While breakthrough infections have typically been less severe than those reported in people who were not fully vaccinated, Gastaldo said the vaccines are less effective in older adults and those with suppressed immune systems, who may need an additional dose or booster shot to improve their immune response.
The vaccines are also less effective when community transmission is high, which prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention to update their guidance so that all adults are eligible for boosters six months after their initial vaccine series for an mRNA vaccine or two months after receiving a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
For those younger than 65, “the primary series continues to do a good job of protecting us against serious illness and death,” Vanderhoff said on Thursday. “But we are seeing that over time, there is a benefit to boosting our immunity, to taking that underlying immunity that we gained from our initial vaccine and bumping that up to protect us against more mild infection or being at risk for inadvertently getting and spreading the virus to others.”