Hamilton County Commissioners declare state of emergency due to omicron
97 percent of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county are unvaccinated.
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Hamilton County is officially in a state of emergency due to rising cases of omicron.
The County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the 60-day emergency declaration at the board’s Tuesday meeting.
The previous state of emergency lapsed Oct. 30, 2021 when COVID numbers were subsiding, according got County Administrator Jeff Aluotto.
What does the state of emergency do?
The most impactful provision of the emergency declaration increases to the county administrator’s ability to buy bulk quantities of rapid tests, according to Commissioner Denise Driehaus.
The provision doubles the competitive bidding dollar threshold from $50,000 to $100,000.
The county can now purchase items tailored to the state of emergency at their quoted prices rather than having to send vendors formal invitations to bid on county orders.
Aluotto said the traditional RFP process can “take a lot longer” and isn’t suited to the sort of emergency purchases, particularly of rapid tests, the county will need to make.
“[It’s] incredibly important as it allows us to move a lot more rapidly and be much more nimble,” Aluotto said.
The emergency declaration also activates the Hamilton County Emergency Operations Center to coordinate response efforts.
Lastly, it authorizes Driehaus to make daily briefings to the public on efforts undertaken by the commission, Hamilton County Public Health and Hamilton County Emergency Management related to the pandemic.
“Just the public messaging aspect of this, more than anything, getting it into people’s heads in the community that this is serious and that we need to take every action we can to prevent the spread of the virus is important,” Aluotto said.
Where does the county stand with omicron?
Hospitals are more overcrowded with COVID patients than at any time during the pandemic. The situation is the same across the river, where ICU bed utilization is maxed out.
Omicron is generally considered to be less severe than prior variants, at least among vaccinated individuals. But the variant spreads much faster, and severe illness remains possible for the unvaccinated.
County data bear that out, showing 97 percent of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, according to Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman.
See the full omicron presentation made to the board of commissioners here. See selected slides below.
>> When will it end? Ohio omicron cases expected to peak in late January, doctors say | Omicron may be headed for a rapid drop in US and Britain
Hamilton County is estimated to be 2-3 weeks behind the omicron surge in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) which is already declining.
Doctors at the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education meeting Monday night described omicron as more or less inevitable, saying the county just needs to “get through the next couple of weeks.”
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