Facing an increase in coronavirus cases as the omicron variant rapidly spreads through Ohio, leaders of six health-care facilities in the Cleveland area took out a full-page ad in the state’s largest newspaper pleading with residents to get vaccinated.
It ends with a desperate plea for the attention of a pandemic-fatigued public: “We need you to care as much as we do.”
The ad was a collaboration of Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, University Hospitals, Summa Health, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. The six medical systems help care for a population of nearly 2.8 million people in the Cleveland area.
Health-care systems in Minnesota put out a similar ad last week in newspapers across the state. The ad described medical workers as “heartbroken” and “overwhelmed” and called for state residents to get vaccinated against and tested for the coronavirus.
On Sunday, top U.S. health officials made television appearances warning Americans that coronavirus cases are expected to skyrocket as the highly transmissible omicron variant circulates. Omicron could bring the number of cases per day to as many as 1 million, said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease specialist, predicted that it will be difficult to keep the coronavirus under control in the United States when there are “about 50 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated.”
In Ohio, less than 55 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, and about 36 percent are fully vaccinated with a booster shot. The state has seen a 30 percent increase in coronavirus cases in the past week, according to The Washington Post’s tracker. Deaths are up 16 percent.
Armond Budish, the Democratic leader of Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, told reporters at a news conference that more covid patients were hospitalized last week in northeastern Ohio than at any other time since the pandemic began. Many hospitals have put off nonessential surgeries as a result, he said.
“And it’s going to get worse,” he cautioned. “This is winter in Cleveland, folks.”
Budish’s warning was prescient: On Friday, two days after he delivered his remarks on Zoom, Cleveland Clinic reported that the omicron variant accounted for about half of its coronavirus-positive tests.
“We are learning this variant is more transmissible, and we are seeing evidence of this by the increased spread in our community,” the clinic said in a statement, according to the Plain Dealer.
Even as cases rise, Ohio is facing a shortage of health workers to provide care. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced Friday that he would mobilize over 1,000 members of the Ohio National Guard across the state to help provide relief. Those missions start Monday.
Coronavirus: What you need to know
Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.
Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.
Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.
Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.
Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.
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