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WEEKLY ROUNDUP | 18 months in, health care workers opt out

As cases surge to winter levels due to the delta variant, health care workers are leaving the field altogether. 
Vanderhoff 08232021
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff during the state coronavirus update on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021.

YOUNGSTOWN — In the beginning of the pandemic, health care workers were hampered by their lack of personal protective equipment. 

During the fall surge of 2020, health care workers struggled with staffing as their own came down with COVID-19. 

As cases surge back to winter levels due to the delta variant, health care workers are now leaving the field altogether. 

“Their ability to stretch is really taxed at this point,” said UC Health CEO Dr. Richard Lofgren. 

Due to these staffing issues, rapidly rising COVID-19 cases and delay of care over the last 18 months, Ohio’s hospitals are strapped, health officials said Friday. 

“We’re seeing new cases at a rate similar to January,” said state health director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. 

In about seven weeks, Ohio’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions have increased ten-fold. On July 9, about 200 Ohioans were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 56 in ICUs. Last week, more than 2,000 Ohioans were hospitalized, with 620 in ICUs.

“It’s Important to take steps to avoid repeated waves that place lives at risk and crowd our hospital beds,” Vanderhoff said. 

He repeated the familiar refrain: get vaccinated, wear a mask, social distance inside and wash your hands. 

COVID-19 trends in Ohio

Between Aug. 22 and Aug. 28, the state reported: 

  • 29,140 new COVID-19 cases, up from 21,010 the week before, including:
    • 478 new cases in Mahoning County, up from 372
    • 317 new cases in Trumbull County, up from 246
    • 263 new cases in Columbiana County, down from 277
  • 1,129 new hospitalizations, up from 993.
  • 110 COVID-19 deaths, up from 80.
  • 66,905 Ohioans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, down from 60,890.

As of Aug. 28, 

  • 6,047494 Ohioans have started to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, including 
    • 114,623 in Mahoning County, an increase of 1,350 (up from 1,286 new first doses the week before);
    • 94,852 in Trumbull, an increase of 1,071 (down from 1,138);
    • 41,317 in Columbiana, an increase of 529 (up from 496).
  • 51.74 percent of the state population has received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Mahoning Valley counties continue to lag behind the state rate. 
    • Mahoning County: 50.12 percent;
    • Trumbull County: 47.91 percent;
    • Columbiana County: 40.55 percent.

From last week

• The U.S. gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine last Monday, a milestone that may help lift public confidence in the shots as the nation battles the most contagious coronavirus mutant yet. Before the endorsement from the Food and Drug Administration, more than 200 million Pfizer doses were administered in the U.S. since emergency use began in December. U.S. vaccinations bottomed out in July but are on the rise — with a million a day given Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Just over half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated with one of the country’s three options, from Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

• Three days after a raucous school board meeting featuring heckling anti-mask parents, Poland parents sent their kids back to school Thursday with little to no signs of protest.  At 7:45 a.m. at McKinley Elementary School, sleepy kids wore their masks on the school bus and parents walked kids to school while toting cups of coffee. New district superintendent Craig Hockenberry said the day was "absolutely fantastic" and that students were masked and seemed "less concerned about it than the adults were.”

• Staff and visitors of the Arms Family Museum, Stewart Media Archives Center and Tyler History Center are required to wear masks until further notice, according to a news release from the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. The museum and historical center will maintain public visitation Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. If visitors do not have a mask when they arrive, masks will be provided. News of the reissued mask mandates comes as Ohio and Mahoning County report their highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases since late January. 

• The opening act at the 175th Canfield Fair has backed out, citing "the current surge in COVID cases made worse by the delta variant." Theory — also known as Theory of a Deadman — was scheduled to open for headlining act Shinedown on Monday, Sept. 6. The band announced Thursday it has canceled or moved its September tour dates. As Theory was not the headlining act, no refunds for the show will be issued. Shinedown is still slated to perform on Sept. 6. Fair operators expect to announce a new opening act soon.

•  The Ohio State University used last week’s full approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to mandate all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated by Nov. 15. OSU President Kristina Johnson wrote in a letter “the university is taking this step because vaccines are the safest and most effective form of protection against COVID-19. We are focused on enhancing the health and safety of our community.” Nearly 75% of Ohio State students, faculty and staff have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the university.

• A flurry of private and public employers are requiring workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after the federal government gave full approval to the Pfizer shot. Shortly after the FDA acted, Walt Disney World reached a deal with its unions to require all workers at its theme park in Orlando, Florida, to be vaccinated. Drugstore chain CVS said pharmacists, nurses and other workers who have contact with patients will have to be inoculated. The nation's two largest private employers — Walmart and Amazon — don't seem to be budging, yet, however.

•  Masks will once again be required in Youngstown city buildings, regardless of vaccination status, city officials announced Monday. Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and city Health Commissioner Erin Bishop announced the mandate during a media briefing. More than half of the city's population remains unvaccinated, Bishop said. The mask mandate in city buildings is set to take effect Tuesday and will remain in effect "until further notice," the mayor said.

Jess Hardin

About the Author: Jess Hardin

Jess Hardin is a reporter for Mahoning Matters. She grew up in Pittsburgh and last worked at The Vindicator. Jess graduated from Georgetown University.
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