COLUMBUS – Hospital leaders again pleaded with Ohioans to wear a mask and limit gatherings with others as the state set another record for newly reported COVID-19 cases and currently hospitalized patients.
Ohio reported 11,885 new COVID-19 cases added Monday. But that might be “artificially high,” Gov. Mike DeWine warned, due to a two-day delay in reporting from large testing providers Mercy Health and the Cleveland Clinic.
Monday’s case numbers were again marked “incomplete” for the sixth day in a row due to a backlog of “thousands” of cases linked to a positive antigen test that need review before they can count. The previous single-day record was 8,808 on Friday, which was also “incomplete.”
“The big, big picture is the high volume of these cases is now overwhelming the system,” DeWine said.
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Ohio again set a record for COVID-19 patients needing hospital care on Monday: 4,358 in hospital beds with 1,079 in intensive care units, according to the Ohio Hospital Association. Those numbers are about three times greater than just one month ago.
They are concerned they will run out of staff to care for patients, as many become sick or have to quarantine after being exposed to someone who is ill.
Staffing problems across Ohio
Dr. Richard Lofgren, president and CEO of UC Health, said there are 1,121 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the region that includes Dayton and Cincinnati.
That includes 253 patients in the ICU and 171 on ventilators.
In the Cincinnati region alone, there are 641 patients in the hospital, Lofgren said. That’s compared to 90 who were hospitalized near the end of September.
“This virus is now everywhere,” Lofgren said. “We anticipate by next week, we’re going to have over 800 patients hospitalized. It’s not that we’re planning for the surge; the surge is here.”
Lofgren said that if trends continue, hospitals will have to bump non-COVID patients in order to care for those with the virus. Lofgren said the region is reactivating its crisis standard of care committee to determine how to ration resources if the situation gets worse.
Cleveland Clinic had about 970 Ohio caregivers sidelined due to illness or quarantine on Monday, said the clinic’s chief of medical operations Dr. Robert Wyllie. More than 2,500 healthcare workers have tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 10 days, according to the state dashboard.
Hospital leaders said they are already reallocating staff from ambulatory care centers and other sites to COVID-19 and ICU floors. Some non-COVID patients have been moved to nearby hospitals. Several hospitals have postponed non-essential surgeries to free up staff.
Unlike in the spring, hospitals have enough personal protective equipment, bed capacity and better treatments.
“The real difference now is having the people available to take care of patients,” Lofgren said. “Pulling people from their usual jobs into these new makeshift jobs adds stress to the environment.”
‘This comes down to personal responsibility’
Asked whether Ohio needs harsher measures than what he has implemented, DeWine said mask compliance is up throughout the state and it’s too early to tell whether the statewide curfew he imposed this past week is working.
DeWine stressed, as he has many times before, that he is counting on individual Ohioans to take the necessary steps to protects themselves and their friends and family.
The most important thing is “what individuals do in their own lives,” DeWine said. “This comes down to personal responsibility.”
Cases and trends
Monday’s case tally was above the moving seven-day average of 7,618 new cases per day.
Ohio’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 6,000 on Monday to a total of 6,020, with 24 new deaths reported since Sunday’s report.
Cases and deaths can be reported days or weeks after someone gets sick or dies. However the majority of new cases reported Monday – 96% – had an “illness onset” date within the past two weeks, according to Ohio Department of Health data.
The test positivity rate reached a seven-day average of 13.5% on Saturday, the most recent day that information is available. The last time that figure was that high was in late April, when only about 5,000 tests were given a day.
Of the 58,876 tests administered Saturday, 12.8% were positive, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The Ohio Hospital Association unveiled a new dashboard that breaks down the number of COVID-19 patients in each of the state’s eight hospital regions at ohiohospitals.org. On Monday, 641 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in the eight-county Southwest Ohio region, about 1 in 4 of all hospital patients.