COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — For the third day in a row, Ohio has broken its record for number of COVID-19 cases.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, 15,989 new cases were reported Thursday, the largest in the state since the start of the pandemic.

“I’m still optimistic. I’m still hopeful but you know the last two years have taken a toll,” said Dr. Brian Taylor with Central Ohio Primary Care.

Dr. Taylor says it’s disheartening to see this many COVID cases despite easy access to the vaccine and booster doses.

While the Omicron variant has made things worse, he says it’s those who choose to remain unvaccinated that are prolonging this pandemic.

“This choice, which is 100% their choice, is really also a choice to very likely get COVID,” Dr. Taylor said. “They’re not maybe believing us that even when you’re in your 30s or 40s or maybe don’t have any medical issues you could still be that person that I’m admitting into the hospital and you’re on oxygen because without it your oxygen levels are too low.”

Meanwhile, other medical experts say they don’t expect this surge to slow down anytime soon.

Unfortunately, I see our positivity numbers in the community continuing to rise perhaps through mid to late January,” said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo with OhioHealth.

Dr. Gastaldo says with the holidays, bowl games, and New Year’s celebrations all around the corner, COVID cases will continue to rise unless more people take precautionary measures.

“We have three safe and effective vaccines, we have monoclonal antibodies, and soon we will have anti-viral pills,” said Dr. Gastaldo. “But nonetheless, we really have to make a concerted effort to protect those who are most vulnerable, those with underlying medical conditions, and those individuals were vaccines don’t work as well.”

Currently, 55% of Ohio’s population is fully vaccinated, which is around 6.4 million people.