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It’s a bit complicated sorting out just where we are in northern Ohio when it comes to the coronavirus.

Hospitalizations and the number of reported cases are trending up, but not at an alarming rate just yet. 

However, health officials say that doesn’t mean we are in the clear.

The virus is still silently among us and appears to be spreading and heading toward what one doctor predicts will be a “big spike” in cases and hospitalizations.

Part of the problem in gauging just where we are with the disease centers around one of the solutions for combating and detecting its spread.

The wide, free distribution of home tests means folks with mild symptoms thanks to vaccinations are staying off the radar and riding out the illness at home. They are simply not notifying health officials of positive results.

But there are still cases being reported through official channels and those are mounting by the day.

These official indicators show a rise in cases in many Ohio counties, including Summit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the transmission rate among Ohio’s northern counties to be elevated, with case numbers in Lorain and Ashtabula counties rising at a faster and more dangerous pace than other counties.

Kent State University on Monday reinstituted a tougher mask mandate on its Ashtabula campus because of the increase in cases in that county.

Marlene Martin, a spokesperson for Summit County Public Health, said they are seeing a general rise in cases with some clusters now showing up in nursing homes and also in school settings.

Virus tracked through sewage

This notion that cases are rising is borne out in the region’s sewer plants of all places.

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This chart indicates a rise of COVID-19 found in samples collected at a wastewater treatment plant in Summit County since early April.

County and state officials have been taking samples of waste flowing through the scores of sewer plants throughout Ohio to test for traces of the virus during the pandemic.

Raw sewage indicates virus spread:What’s the scoop on COVID-19 and poop? Here’s what data from Akron-area treatment plants show

While the samples are nowhere near the peak back in late December and January, the results in most instances across the state show a rise of virus in the last month or so.

Martin said this is not a time to let your guard down.

The virus, she said, is still out there and can be potentially dangerous, particularly for those who are not vaccinated or have underlying health concerns.

Health officials are particularly concerned with what is considered by the CDC as widespread cases across the region with seasonal large gatherings like graduation parties and weddings taking place.

There’s no mask mandate, but Martin said it would be wise to wear a mask — whether you are vaccinated or not — in any indoor setting.

“There is a spike,” she said. “We are seeing an increase in cases.”

Health officials are encouraging those who are not vaccinated or those who are due for a booster to get shots now.

Drive-thru vaccinations in Summit County

Summit County is hosting a free drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at 1867 W. Market St. in Akron for those ages 5 and over.

No appointment is necessary. For more, visit https://www.scph.org/covid/vaccine.

More:Need a COVID-19 shot? Summit County agency offers drive-thru, walk-in and pop-up clinics

Dr. Donald Dumford, a medical director of infection prevention at Cleveland Clinic Akron General, said vaccinations are a key to ensuring you do not end up hospitalized.

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It was just a month or so ago, Dumford said, that the number of COVID cases at Akron General had dropped to the low single digits — and most of those were discovered among patients who tested positive when being admitted for other reasons.

This is not the case any more.

Dumford said as of Monday there were 29 patients hospitalized at Akron General with five of those in the intensive care unit.

A common thread among most of these patients is they came to the hospital having symptoms of the virus and were either unvaccinated or had underlying health concerns.

“We are seeing some real concerning things lately,” he said.

And it is happening statewide, where numbers were just a few weeks ago in the low hundreds and are now in the low thousands.

Akron-area COVID hospitalizations up

COVID hospitalizations in the region have increased in the last several weeks but still remain below record numbers.

On Monday, there were 55 patients in Akron’s four hospitals being treated for COVID. That is up from a total of 25 patients at the area hospitals on May 4. 

There are 29 patients being treated at Cleveland Clinic Akron General, which was at 14 on May 4 and broke above 20 late last week, said spokesman Joe Milicia.

At Summa Health System, there are 25 patients, said spokesman Mike Bernstein. The number was seven on May 4 and has been hovering between 21 and 25 for the last seven days, he said.

Akron Children’s Hospital reported no COVID patients on Monday and had three on May 4.

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Western Reserve Hospital had one COVID patient on May 4 and one on Monday.

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The all-time high record was 399 patients being treated for COVID in the county on Jan. 6 of this year.

New wave of COVID cases in Ohio

Dumford fears it is just going to get worse as he predicts hospitalizations in Greater Akron and statewide will rise amid what is shaping up to be a “big spike” of infections.

He predicts it won’t get as bad as it was in January, but the Omicron variant that is sickening folks in the region now is pretty resilient against any antibodies from vaccinations or previous infections.

Dumford said those who are vaccinated seem to be faring better and avoiding trips to the doctor or the hospital.

His best advice, and he admits it is something a weary northern Ohio doesn’t want to hear, is to dust off your masks and start wearing them once again in public spaces and at small and large gatherings.

“This is definitely going to affect all of us,” he said.

Staff writer Betty Lin-Fisher contributed to this report. Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected]

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