COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The highly contagious but quickly moving omicron variant of COVID-19 may be past its peak in Ohio, per the latest data on cases and hospitalizations in the state.

Ohio’s first omicron case was confirmed Dec. 7, but cases had already been ticking up since November. New daily infections driven by the newly dominant variant exploded in late December, eclipsing 15,000 just before Christmas and doubling to a record-setting 30,000-plus on multiple days after the new year.

Although omicron is less severe than the previously dominant delta variant, there were enough omicron cases to also push hospitalizations to record levels.

But what was once a precipitous spike in new admissions is now a steady decline, according to the latest hospitalization figures tracked by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Hospital Association.

As of Monday, ODH hospitalization data backdated to when people were admitted to the hospital show a peak on Jan. 4 at 410 people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Daily admissions have fallen since then to the low 300s.

“Statewide, hospitalizations reached a pandemic high earlier this month and have been slowly declining for the last 10 days,” ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday in a press conference.

Ohio’s omicron wave has moved north to south, with people in Cleveland and Akron areas first affected the worst, then people in central, then areas of southern Ohio.

Most regions of the state have seen coronavirus hospitalizations declining in the past week, per Monday data from the OHA:

  • Northeast: -31%
  • Northwest: -8%
  • East Central: -19%
  • Central: -4%
  • West Central: +9%
  • Southeast: -5%
  • Southwest: -9%
  • Southeast Central: +23%

Although admissions are dropping on average across the state, they’re still increasing around Dayton and in a southern chunk of Ohio that includes Chillicothe, Jackson and Portsmouth.

“It is tremendously taxing to our staff, our physicians and our nurses,” Dr. Roberto Colon, chief medical officer of Dayton’s Miami Valley Hospital, said Thursday.

Has Ohio hit its omicron peak?

“One of our most frequently asked questions is if we’ve reached our COVID-19 peak,” Vanderhoff said Thursday, “signaling that an end might be in sight.”

“Certainly, the signs of a downturn that we’re seeing in some parts of the state,” he said, brings health officials “renewed hope,” but cases are still at a high level statewide. Ohio saw multiple days last week with more than 20,000 cases – even breaking its daily record on Thursday with 21,664.

Cases are dropping in major cities like Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati. Per ODH data, however, they’re still at or near peak levels where hospitalizations are still increasing: Places like Dayton, Lima, Findlay and south-central Ohio.

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

But preliminary case trends seem to indicate omicron is more of a holdout in those areas than worsening overall. Statewide, ODH data shows a highpoint in cases on Jan. 3 at 32,241, followed by a welcoming downward trend in the most recent days.

The two-week average of infections backdated to their onset has dropped 27% in Ohio since Jan. 10, falling from 22,589 to 16,517 in the past 14 days. ODH has reported fewer than 9,000 new cases in each of the past two days, the first time since mid-December.

Still, that two-week onset average as of Monday is more than double its highest point during the first delta variant spike in September.

“We’re well premature of being able to say, ‘Breathe a sigh of relief, we’re out of the woods,’” Vanderhoff said.