As COVID-19 cases rise, Ohio health officials urge vaccines not mask mandates – Cincinnati.com

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise, Ohio isn’t requiring any practices to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

The Ohio Department of Health’s message remains the same: get vaccinated. 

“Our No. 1 message, the best protection by far that we can offer people, is to get out and get vaccinated,” Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Tuesday. “We have opportunity here. We have Ohioans who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated.”

As of Monday, 57.25% of Ohioans had received a first COVID-19 dose. That’s lower than the national rate of 69.5%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Michigan’s health department recently advised – but did not mandate – wearing masks indoors for those age 2 and older. Michigan currently has its highest level of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. One of every 10 U.S. cases is in the state, which has only 3% of the nation’s population.

Vanderhoff encouraged Ohioans to continue to wear masks in schools, where many children remain unvaccinated, and in crowded areas. 

Meanwhile, Ohio’s rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents is 496.3 over the past two weeks. That’s up from 410.5 last week and fewer than 50 in June. The CDC defines a high transmission as 100 cases per 100,000 residents. 

Vanderhoff said he couldn’t estimate how cases could surge during the winter when more people are indoors. 

“We’re heading into the winter already in a surge,” he said.

Don’t bring COVID-19 to Thanksgiving

As the holidays approach, health officials recommended taking health precautions when gathering with a large group. That might include getting vaccinated, taking a COVID-19 test or staying home if you’re sick. 

“Make sure you’re not carrying anything to Thanksgiving other than the side you’re supposed to bring,” Wood County Health Commissioner Benjamin Robison said.

Vax-2-School prizes coming Monday

The first scholarships for Ohioans ages 12 to 25 who received the COVID-19 vaccine will be announced Monday.

Those who enter the “Vax-2-School” drawing are eligible to win a $10,000 or $100,000 scholarship. To date, the drawing has received 133,652 entries.

More: Vax-2-School: Here’s how to enter Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery for a scholarship

About 11.1% of Ohioans between age 5 and 11 have received their first COVID-19 shot. That’s slightly higher than the national average of 10.1%, Vanderhoff said. 

Participants must sign up for the drawing, either at ohiovax2school.com or by calling 833-427-5634. For children under 18, parents or guardians must sign them up.

The first scholarships will be announced Monday with the final prizes being awarded on Dec. 3. The money will be provided in 529 college savings plans.

Booster shots available for all adults

The CDC recently expanded eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots to all adults. Those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can receive a booster shot two months after their vaccine. Those who received Moderna or Pfizer must wait six months after their second dose. 

Vanderhoff said COVID-19 vaccines are effective, but booster shots can help as immunity diminishes. 

“There is a natural tendency for immunity to wane over time,” Vanderhoff said. 

Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

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