Ohio physicians sound alarm about COVID-19 hospitalizations, staffing strain

Photo of drive-through COVID-19 screening by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Physicians and hospital administrators assisting Ohio’s COVID-19 response sought to sound the alarms Monday about a rising COVID-19 hospitalization load that’s showing no sign of letting up.

Beds and ventilators aren’t running low for now. However, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the newly hired chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health, said hospitals are struggling to keep their staff healthy.

“They can’t escape the impact of rising covid-19 numbers in their communities,” he said. “When they have to quarantine, they can’t be at the bedside.”

There are 2,533 Ohioans in the hospital with COVID-19 Monday, the highest the figure has ever been during the pandemic. On Oct. 10, there were 862.

This represents a 350% increase in the hospitalization load since Sept. 20, according to the Ohio Hospital Association CEO Mike Abrams, posing a “severe strain” on hospital caregivers.

Vanderhoff said the caregivers are becoming infected in the community, not at the hospital. On average, more than 4,700 Ohioans per day contracted COVID-19 over the last week, per state data.

About 23,000 people infected with COVID-19 — about 9% of the total caseload — are health care workers, per state data.

Despite the recent daily ritual of record-breaking hospitalization, test positivity and infection rates, Vanderhoff did not announce any policy changes. He reiterated ODH’s call for better mask usage and more social distancing, especially at social gatherings and family get togethers.

He indicated that if Ohio doesn’t reduce its new case rate, which would presumably lighten the hospital load, hospitals may need to defer non-essential care down the line.

“If we don’t see a shift in the way things are going … we won’t be able to continue caring for the acutely ill without postponing important but less urgent care,” he said.

All told, more than 5,500 Ohioans have died from COVID-19. Nearly 256,000 have been infected.

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