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COVID-19 isn't spiking in Ohio like last year. Thank vaccines and omicron, doctors say

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People who are ill should see their primary care physicians or visit walk-in care clinics to ease pressure on emergency rooms and urgent cares, said Dr. James Kravec, chief clinical officer for Lorain's Mercy Health hospital.

New figuresfrom the state of Ohio show the number of new weekly COVID-19 infections remains slightly elevated, with 16,061 new reported cases in the last week.

Since the end of November, the number of people in Ohio's hospitals with the virus has been trending up, but the number of patients in intensive care with COVID has risen only slightly, the Ohio Department of Health data show.

Most of the region is at low or medium community spread, according to the Center's for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID transmission map. Only Trumbull and Mahoning counties are designated as having high levels of spread.

Built-up community immunity has helped prevent a surge this season, said Dr. James Kravec, chief clinical officer for Lorain's Mercy Health hospital.

I look at our data for Mercy Health, our rise of cases in 2020 and 2021 happened between August and November, and we haven't seen that this year,” he said. “We've seen a small rise, and I think that will continue.”

Mercy hospitals are managing patient volumes well, Kravec said, even as influenza hospitalizations have risen. Other Northeast Ohio hospitals said their emergency rooms are filling up and suggest people contact their primary care doctor as a first step for accessing care.

Kravec agrees that's a good first step.

See your primary care physician or one of your walk-in care clinics in the community as you have illnesses that need tested or need seen,” said Kravec. “Stay in contact with your health care team to really help guide you through this on a very individualized approach.”

Northeast Ohio doctors say the virus in is a plateau period — and that could continue.

Widespread immunity from the omicron variant either from the vaccine or infection, combined with no other major competing variants currently circulating “has really slowed down the sort of surge and collapse cycling,” said Dr. Arthur Lavin, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital – Beachwood.

As long as the subvariants don’t mutate too much, hospitalizations and deaths in the next few months could remain similar to what they are now, Lavin said.

Taylor Wizner is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media.