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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW)– The Ohio Department of Health held a virtual news conference on COVID-19 Thursday morning.

Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff was be joined by a number of experts from across the state to discuss the latest developments in the pandemic and the current conditions in hospitals.

On Wednesday, ODH reported 8,707 cases, 395 hospitalizations, 53 intensive care unit admissions and 0 deaths. That’s roughly 2,500 more daily cases than the 21-day average. The ICU admissions are double the average.

“Our hospitals are having to make very difficult decisions and implement contingencies to cope with the volume,” Vanderhoff said. “What’s the driving all of these delta hospitalizations in Ohio? Well, when we look at the data, our COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to be driven largely by unvaccinated Ohioans. Severe illness with COVID-19 is, as well know, largely preventable thanks to our vaccines.”

“The facts continue to provide us a clear reminder that when Ohioans chose to be vaccinated, they’re better protecting themselves from severe illness, including hospitalization and death. And they help mitigate pressure on our hospitals.”

Dr. Glen Seaman, medical director of Williams County health District and a family physician, expressed frustration at patients who are not vaccinated. He said they are experiencing a delay in urgent care and specialized care.

“It’s unfortunate that COVID is a disease that there is no treatment for. We have to rely on the body’s immune system to be able to recover from this virus. And it takes some people one to three weeks, that’s time that patients are missing work and not feeling well. As a physician, I want my patients to feel well,” Seaman said. “As a family physician, prevention is key. I’ll look people in the eye in the office and I’ll tell them, ‘This is a preventable illness. You would likely not be sitting here today had you chosen to be vaccinated.'”

The three doctors who joined the news conference said wearing patients down and dispelling misinformation about vaccines takes time.

While experts are trying to learn more about the latest variant, omicron, the Ohio Department of Health said the delta variant remains the dominant strain in the state. Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, medical director of infectious diseases at OhioHealth, spoke about this new variant.

“Omicron variant represents the next evolution of this specific type of virus. Coronavirus is an RNA virus. RNA viruses mutate, it’s what they do,” Gastaldo said. He said he anticipates we’ll see a pi variant, representing the next letter in the Greek alphabet.

Gastaldo said we are still learning about omicron, which will require research, including real-world data. For now, based on early reports in South Africa and parts of Europe, it appears the variant is more transmissible and more severe, he said.

“Do our vaccines still work (against omicron)? It does appear that our vaccines provide a wonderful layer of protection against severe disease, even more so with a booster shot,” Gastaldo said.