COVID hospitalizations putting strain on hospitals ahead of holidays

COVID-19 hospitalizations are again putting pressure on Ohio’s hospitals, resulting in some facilities diverting patients and implementing contingency plans, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said.

“When our hospitals are stressed to this degree it strains our other services,” he said.

Some hospitals may delay elective procedures or only accept trauma patients that meet a certain criteria as health care workers deal with an increase in patients and staffing shortages.

The state had 4,338 coronavirus patients hospitalized on Thursday and 1,114 in ICUs. The last time Ohio had more than 4,000 COVID patients in its hospitals was in January during the state’s winter surge, Vanderhoff said. The number of COVID ICU admissions is consistent with what Ohio was experiencing a year ago as the state was preparing to administer its first COVID vaccines.

In the last two weeks, an average of 62% of all of Ohio’s new COVID hospitalizations were in the northern part of the state, Vanderhoff said. Hospitalizations and deaths were also higher in counties below Ohio’s vaccination average.

“It’s clear that higher vaccination rates are associated with lower rates of hospitalization and death,” Vanderhoff said. “...That’s what vaccines were created to do. To keep people alive and out of the hospital.”

While vaccinated people may still get a mild case of COVID, they generally protect people from severe cases that could lead to hospitalization or death.

Counties below Ohio’s average vaccination rate generally have hospitalization rates 35% to 40% higher than states above that average, Vanderhoff said.

To avoid stressing health care systems further, Vanderhoff encouraged Ohioans to get vaccinated and get booster doses if possible. People should also consider wearing a face mask while in public or with large groups and avoid large crowds.

He reminded residents getting ready to celebrate Christmas in just two weeks that it does take time for the vaccines to be effective. For the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and booster, it takes two weeks to kick in, and the two-shot Moderna an Pfizer vaccines can take five to six weeks from the first dose to be effective.

Ohioans who won’t be vaccinated in time for holiday celebrations should consider taking a COVID test before traveling or gathering with friends and family to avoid spreading the virus.

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