COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio Department of Health Director says there are now over 3,000 patients in the hospital with COVID-19 throughout the state, with 800 of those patients in intensive care.

“The wave of cases continues to rise at an alarming rate,” Dr. Vanderhoff said, adding that the numbers are 20 times higher than they were in July.

ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff spoke at a press conference Thursday along with infectious disease physician Dr. Joseph Gastaldo.

“The atmosphere is sad,” Dr. Gastaldo said about the morale among hospital professionals who are stretched to the limit due to the influx of COVID patients. “Health care workers are physically and emotionally fatigued.”

Dr. Vanderhoff repeated that layers of protection are the best way to prevent getting sick. That includes masks, vaccinations, hand washing, and social distancing.

“Vaccines are the safest and most reliable way to make sure we have strong protective immunity,” Dr. Vanderhoff said.

Dr. Gastaldo addressed the question of breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among the fully vaccinated. He said the majority of breakthrough cases are in people above the age of 80, those with compromised immune systems, and transplant patients.

“The vaccines keep you from being hospitalized and keep you from dying,” said Dr. Gastaldo. “Counties that have higher vaccination rates have lower infections among children.”

Wednesday, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced an indoor mask mandate in public places regardless of vaccination status. Bexley and Whitehall soon joined in, announcing they would be implementing their own mask mandates.

New cases of Coronavirus in Ohio Wednesday came in at 6,823, with 457 new hospitalizations. The 21-day case average is now more than 4,600, with a new variant — variant ‘mu’ — now detected in Ohio.