ODH: Rise in COVID cases, hospitalizations strain health care system

Free COVID-19 tests were available at the old Greene County Technology Center near Xenia on Dec. 15, 2020. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
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Free COVID-19 tests were available at the old Greene County Technology Center near Xenia on Dec. 15, 2020. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are putting a strain on Ohio health care workers, with some hospitals beginning to reschedule elective procedures and divert patients to other facilities, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday.

After seeing daily cases drop to 200 to 300 cases a day in July, Ohio is experiencing a new wave with numbers rivaling its winter surge.

ODH reported more than 6,8000 daily cases Wednesday, and the state’s 21-day case average rose to 4,797 cases a day.

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According to data from the Ohio Hospital Association, one in seven hospitals patients and one in four patients in the ICU in Ohio had COVID-19 as of Wednesday, Vanderhoff said.

In rural Ohio, one in three hospital patients and and half of patients in the ICU have the virus, he said.

Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, medical director of infectious diseases at OhioHealth, described the overall feeling in the hospitals as “sadness, physical and emotional fatigue and frustration.”

On top of seeing more COVID-19 patients, hospitals are also seeing more non-COVID patients, some of whom had procedures and care delayed due to Ohio’s winter surge, he said.

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While Ohio isn’t experiencing hospital capacity issues at this time, there are issues with health care staffing.

“We’re running up against real challenges with the wear and tears this long pandemic has had on our health care providers, our front line providers and the ability of our hospitals and health systems to maintain his very high pace of work and activity over the long haul,” Vanderhoff said.

To curb the surge of case and avoid health care systems from getting overwhelmed, Gastaldo and Vanderhoff encouraged Ohioans to get vaccinated if eligible, wear face masks while in public, social distance and practice good hygiene.

“All of these things work very well together in helping you not getting infected with this contagious virus,” Gastaldo said.

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Vanderhoff stressed immunity through vaccination is the way out of this pandemic.

“As more and more people get vaccinated, the ability of this virus to cause the harm that we’re seeing it cause is reduced,” he said. “The ability of this virus to transform, to mutate, to bring new variants into our communities becomes less.”

When asked about mandating masks and vaccines, Vanderhoff said it’s up to Ohioans to choose and Ohioans have made it clear they’re against mandates.

“As a result, we continue to offer the best medical guidance the we can to the people of Ohio,” he said. “We are telling people what we as doctors know they can and should do to keep themselves and those around them healthy.”

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