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

ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff was joined by a number of experts from across the state, including Dr. Steven Gordon, chair of the Cleveland Clinic Department of Infectious Disease.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 8,944 cases, 425 hospitalizations, 42 intensive care unit admissions and zero deaths in the last 24 hours. The daily cases were a spike of more than 3,000 compared to the 21-day average, while hospitalizations and ICU admissions were nearly double the current averages. That upward trend continued on Thursday with 9,131 cases, 366 hospitalizations and 41 ICU admissions.

Vanderhoff said those hospitalized are largely the unvaccinated. He said they are concerned about the high number of those in the hospital with COVID, especially in Northeast Ohio.

“Now is the time to protect yourself,” the state’s top doctor said as he encouraged people to get vaccinated.

The news conference comes days as the world adjusts to the emergence of the omicron variant. Vanderhoff said much remains unknown about it at this point, including if it’s more transmissible or more severe.

“If and when it arrives in Ohio, rest assured, we’ll be looking for it,” he said. “We have no indications that our vaccines will fail to provide substantial protection against omicron.”