Area COVID-19 cases increase, but state’s numbers are trending downward

Drop in cases in Southwest Ohio slower than in Northeast Ohio, officials say

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

MIDDLETOWN — While the omicron variant continues to be “a dominant force,” a Premier Health official believes the number of COVID cases will peak later this month, a trend Northeast Ohio experienced two weeks ago.

Dr. Roberto Colon, vice president of quality and safety for the health system, said the number of COVID-19 cases is heading in the “right direction.”

Colon and Dr. Keith Bricking, president of Atrium Medical Center, shared the latest information about the omicron variant, boosters, and the impact on the region and at Atrium Medical Center Thursday morning during a one-hour virtual presentation.

While Ohio’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are trending downward overall, Southwest Ohio hospitals are reporting an increase in admissions. Compared to last week, Southwest Ohio reported a 14% increase in ICU admissions with COVID, said Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff.

In the past 10 days Ohio has seen a slow decline in the COVID hospital inpatients, with Northern Ohio seeing the steepest decrease, he said. The signs of a downturn have brought a “renewed hope,” but Vanderhoff added that the omicron surge is still ongoing in some parts of the state.

This week, the Ohio Hospital Association reported that 5,887 hospitalized patients had COVD, or about 33% of all patients. In the Intensive Care Unit, the percentage was about the same.

Bricking said 45 days ago, about 5% of those who tested positive for COVID, had the omicron variant. Now that’s 95-99%, he said.

Getting vaccination and booster shots, wearing masks, practicing social distancing and frequently washing your hands remain the best way to fight against contracting COVID-19, he said. Earlier this month, 83% of those in Ohio hospitals were unvaccinated and 89% of those in the ICU were unvaccinated.

While those who receive the booster still can test positive for COVID-19 Colon said it’s a “very mild illness.”

Both of his children have received their boosters, what he called the “best level of protection.”

While hospitalizations are starting to decrease in Ohio, Dayton Children’s Hospital is caring for a record number of COVID patients. Last week, the hospital had 63 patients with coronavirus, with 19 of them in the PICU, according to Dayton Children’s.

Some other highlights of the presentation:

  • Bricking said Premier Health, like all hospital systems, is dealing with supply chain shortages and reduced staffing. He said health care professionals have left the medical profession for various reasons, including the stress related to COVID. He said AMC is sharing medical supplies with other hospitals as needed and trying to recruit new employees and retain the current staff. “We are challenged,” he said.
  • Colon said there was concern late last year that the medical industry could face a double dose of pandemic with the flu and COVID-19 hitting at the same time. But he said since people are vaccinated and wearing masks, influenza hasn’t been as severe as earlier feared.
  • The Ohio National Guard, which reported to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton on Dec. 30 to help with food service, patient transport, environmental services and other non-clinical duties, is expected to arrive at Atrium next week to perform similar duties. More than 2,000 Ohio National Guard members have been deployed throughout the state to help hospitals battling staffing shortages amid the omicron surge.