COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – COVID-19 infections have been increasing in Ohio for nearly two months as the more contagious delta variant of the virus continues to be the dominant strain nationwide. But while cases and hospitalizations are spiking, deaths have yet to show their usual upward movement during waves of infection.

Backdated coronavirus data from the Ohio Department of Health shows the two-week average of cases began continually increasing during the delta wave on July 4, and the two-week average of hospitalizations started rising on July 14.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, a hospitalization usually comes a week or two after if needed. And if the patient dies, that most often happens two to eight weeks after admission.

But while cases and hospitalizations have been increasing for the better part of seven weeks, deaths – at worst – have stayed flat.

“When we looked early on in this pandemic, the majority of our deaths were coming from our elderly – particularly those living in long-term care facilities,” Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts told NBC4.

The median age of the 20,648 Ohioans who have died from COVID-19 is 79 years old, and less than 10% of deaths have been people under 60. Elderly age groups also have the highest vaccination rates by far.

Age Group% started vaccination as of Aug. 18
Source: Ohio Dept. of Health

Elderly people and nursing home staff were among the first people eligible for vaccines, Roberts noted. Plus, there are now many preventative measures in place at long-term care facilities, like daily staff testing.

“So, I think as a result of all of that, we’re seeing less cases in that population,” she said. “And when we do see a case in that population they’re not leading to death because of the vaccine.”

The view from the state health department, however, is that it’s “too early to tell” if deaths will spike with delta variant cases and hospitalizations, ODH spokesperson Alicia Shoults said.

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She noted “death data lags considerably” since ODH changed reporting systems in March. Now that deaths are reported twice per week and separate from cases and hospitalizations, a death can take up to six months to get to ODH.

“We are still early in the delta wave,” Shoults said.