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WEEKLY ROUNDUP | As latest COVID-19 surge worsens, federal vaccine mandate faces pushback

There are now about four times as many new COVID-19 infections nationwide each day as at the same time last year, along with two-and-a-half times more hospitalizations and twice as many deaths.
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Last week was Ohio's worst week for COVID-19 in eight months — same as the week prior.

Nearly 1,500 new hospitalizations and 202 new deaths were reported statewide last week. That's an average 214 hospitalizations per day and 30 deaths per day. At this same time last month, the state reported an average about 91 hospitalization per day and nearly seven deaths per day.

The state also once again set a new eight-month record for COVID-19 cases in a single day, topping 9,000 new cases on Friday, the most since early January.

As practically all of the metrics state health officials use to track the disease's impact in Ohio have worsened last week, so has the state's seven-day average positivity rate for coronavirus tests, which now appears positioned to surpass the one-year peak reported at the height of the state's winter surge.

Though daily coronavirus testing volume has grown much more robust in recent weeks, the average rate of positive tests was reported Sept. 9 at 15.7 percent, having risen more than 3 percent over the prior week. That's as high as it was Dec. 8, during the winter surge, and in late April 2020, when COVID-19 testing was not yet widely available.

About 11,000 fewer Ohioans opted for the coronavirus vaccine last week, compared to the week prior.

President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled a new rule requiring as many as 100 million Americans, including private sector workers, health care workers and federal contractors to get a COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing, McClatchy News reported.

The order drew fierce criticism from Republican leaders — who threatened lawsuits and civil disobedience, the Associated Press reported — including Gov. Mike DeWine, who called Biden's vaccine mandate "a mistake."

“We should be focused on the science of preventing virus spread — the vaccine is our best tool to stop COVID — but people and business owners should make their own decisions about vaccination,” the governor Tweeted.

More than 208 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, but some 80 million remain unvaccinated, the Associated Press reported Saturday. In Ohio, about 53 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, the 21st lowest rate in the nation according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Meanwhile, there are now about four times as many new COVID-19 infections nationwide each day as at the same time last year, along with two-and-a-half times more hospitalizations and twice as many deaths.

COVID-19 trends in Ohio

Between Sept. 5 and Sept. 11, the state reported: 

  • 46,525 new COVID-19 cases, up from 39,705 the week before, including:
    • 798 new cases in Mahoning County, up from 569
    • 541 new cases in Trumbull County, up from 400
    • 491 new cases in Columbiana County, up from 311
  • 1,496 new hospitalizations, up from 1,313.
  • 202 COVID-19 deaths, up from 149.
  • 48,248 Ohioans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, down from 59,789.

As of Sept. 11:

  • 6,170,724 Ohioans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 
    • 116,596 in Mahoning County, an increase of 904 (down from 1,069 new first doses the week before);
    • 96,492 in Trumbull, an increase of 744 (down from 896);
    • 42,141 41,805 in Columbiana, an increase of 336 (down from 488).
  • 52.8 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: 50.99 percent;
    • Trumbull County: 48.74 percent;
    • Columbiana County: 41.36 percent.

Last week's coronavirus news

  • When it comes to the latest COVID-19 surge in Ohio, state health officials have made it clear a mask mandate is not in the cards — even with cases nearly as high as last year's winter peak. When pushed on his refusal to recommend a mask mandate to Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff again emphasized personal choice. "We have to recognize that this is a democracy, and in a democracy, people have the right to govern. And they have made it very clear there is a low tolerance for mandates," he said.
     
  • Mask mandates came last week to Poland Local Schools and Newton Falls Exempted Village Schools, two districts that had previously left masks optional for some or all students. At Poland, the reversal came just six days into the school year, after 19 students tested positive for COVID-19, including 15 from the high school, where masks were not required. Nearly 100 Poland students, or one-tenth of the student body, were required to quarantine. The district will reevaluate the mask order at next week's school board meeting.
     
  • The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County's East Library, 430 Early Road, is expected to reopen today, following a temporary closure due to a COVID-19 related staffing shortage, according to a news release last week. During the closure, the library was expected to be deep-cleaned and sanitized.
     
  • An Ohio judge reversed an order Monday that forced a Cincinnati-area hospital to treat a COVID-19 patient with ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug federal health officials say should not be taken to treat the virus. The judge said “there can be no doubt” that health experts do not support ivermectin being used as a treatment against COVID-19. His ruling comes after Butler County Judge Gregory Howard temporarily ordered West Chester Hospital to treat Jeffrey Smith with 30 mg of ivermectin daily for three weeks, McClatchy News reported.
     
  • Children now make up over a quarter of the country’s weekly COVID-19 cases, according to data released last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics. As of Sept. 2, more than 5 million children had tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, representing 15.1 percent of all cases, the AAP said. About 252,000 new cases were added that week, marking the largest number of child cases since the pandemic began.
     
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly adjusted its definitions of "vaccine" and "vaccinated" on its website. The new definitions now state that vaccines give recipients "protection" from specific diseases, rather than "immunity." A Centers spokesperson said the new definitions are more transparent about all vaccines' inability to be 100 percent effective — including the coronavirus vaccine. The misconception that COVID-19 vaccines were designed to prevent infections altogether has led people to believe that rare "breakthrough" infections means the vaccines aren't working as intended and spurred a new wave of COVID-truther skepticism.
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