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Ohio's Top Doc Warns Young Unvaccinated They Will Likely Get COVID

A patient in the hospital with COVID
Mongkolchan Akesin
Patient suffering from COVID-19 in hospital

Ohio Dept of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says data shows younger, unvaccinated Ohioans are the ones who are hospitalized in serious condition these days.

The Ohio Department of Health reports 459 new hospitalizations were reported in the past 24 hrs, the highest number since January. And the percentage of Ohioans under 50 in hospitals has doubled since then too.

Vanderhoff says young, unvaccinated Ohioans are likely to catch COVID.

“If you are young and unvaccinated, it’s not probably a question of when, not if, you get COVID 19," Vanderhoff says.

graphic of COVID hospitalizations in Ohio
Ohio Dept of Health
COVID hospitalizations in Ohio

Vaccination rates are lowest among Ohioans 40 years old and younger. Gov Mike DeWine says he’s considering another statewide incentive to prompt younger Ohioans to get the shots.

Meanwhile, hospitals statewide report they are feeling the strain from COVID patients. Dr. Suzanne Bennett, University of Cincinnati Health Care System, says "These rising numbers of sick COVID patients places a significant burden on our hospital beds, our medical teams, and worse yet, it creates scenarios that no one wants to think about where we do not have the space for patients who would otherwise benefit from receiving their care at large academic medical centers."

Dr. Suzanne Bennett,  University of Cincinnati Health System
Jo Ingles
Dr. Suzanne Bennett, University of Cincinnati Health System

It's not just big-city hospitals that are feeling the strain. Joe Bates, a nurse with the Genesis Hospital System in Zanesville, says the average age of the COVID patients hospitalized right now in that facility is around 59, with many of them being younger. Last year at this time, he says the average was about 78 years of age. And he says unvaccinated Ohioans are the most serious cases. "Of the COVID positives that we currently have in the ICU, none of them are vaccinated who are on the ventilator," Bates says.

Dr. Alan Rivera, Fulton County Health Center, says his hospital is "in a crisis mode." He says the nursing staff is about half of what it was last year this time because many nurses are leaving the field, retiring early or just finding jobs elsewhere because of long hours and emotional strain. Rivera says the majority of patients in his hospital are there because they have COVID. And their ages are anywhere from 30 to 50 years old.

Terri Alexander, RN, Summa Health System, Akron
Jo Ingles
Terri Alexander, RN, Summa Health System, Akron

Terri Alexander, a nurse with Summa Health in Akron, says she's also seeing young, unvaccinated patients. "We live in a culture that has never experienced coming to the hospital and getting turned away, and I think people can't fathom what that's truly like until it's them or their family members who are coming in and getting turned away," Alexander says.

But it's not just health care facilities that are feeling the strain. Public school districts statewide report they don't have enough bus drivers. DeWine says school districts have asked for help because COVID has taken a toll on the already short supply of bus drivers. DeWine says he’s reached out to Ohio National Guard Adjutant General John Harris Jr.

“I’ve asked General Harris and other senior members of my team to take a look at this to see what might be done. General Harris is in the process of putting an option together," DeWine says.

DeWine also says hopes to have more information on that later this week.

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