COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio’s top doctor says he has “renewed hope” that the state’s COVID-19 moment is improving, but “extraordinarily high” hospitalizations prove an end to the omicron variant wave has yet to arrive.

“Thankfully, we are seeing many signs of improvement in some of Ohio’s first and hardest hit areas during this historic and record-shattering surge in COVID-19 cases,” Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday in a press conference.

Watch the full press conference in the video player above.

Omicron first gained a damaging foothold around Cleveland and Akron. Vanderhoff said Ohio has seen a slow drop in hospitalizations statewide over the past 10 days, but it has been the steepest in northeast Ohio, where they have fallen by up to 24% in the past week.

While a peak and decline in the northeast give Vanderhoff “renewed hope,” he cautioned that “many other parts of our state are still on the rise of this omicron tidal wave.”

Ohio’s 21-day average of new COVID-19 infections is a pandemic-high 22,071, and Wednesday’s 689 new hospital admissions were the state’s second-highest day yet.

“Despite some encouraging signs, our hospitals remain strained,” Vanderhoff said. “And hospitalizations are still rising in southern and western Ohio.”

With testing needs shifting to those two regions and away from northeastern Ohio, some state National Guard forces will shift locations.

“Right now, we’re in the process of disengaging well over 400 of our service members from the Cleveland area and looking at moving to the Dayton, Cincinnati and the southern part of the state, where we see the demand increasing,” Major General John C. Harris Jr. said in Thursday’s press conference.

Vanderhoff and Harris were joined by Major General John C. Harris, Jr., with the Ohio National Guard, Dr. Alice Kim, Medical Director for Medical Operations at the Cleveland Clinic, and Dr. Roberto Colon, Chief Medical Officer with Miami Valley Hospital.

The latest Ohio case and hospitalization data is scheduled to be released at 2 p.m.