Northeast Ohio Hospital Capacity Stretched Thin As COVID-19 Surge Continues

This graph shows the decrease in available capacity for inpatient beds, Intensive Care Unit beds, and ventilators for Region 2, which is Northeast Ohio. COVID-19 cases are reaching levels not seen since last winter, officials said at a news briefing, Wed. Sept. 1 2021. [Ohio Department of Health]
This graph shows the decrease in available capacity for inpatient beds, Intensive Care Unit beds, and ventilators for Region 2, which is Northeast Ohio. COVID-19 cases are reaching levels not seen since last winter, officials said at a news briefing, Wed. Sept. 1 2021. [Ohio Department of Health]

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing at such a high rate that public health officials are concerned about hospital capacity in Northeast Ohio. 

“We’re climbing much faster than we were from the previous fall,” said Jana Rush, director of Epidemiology, Surveillance & Informatics at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

There has been about a 16 percent increase in hospitalizations over the previous week, Rush said.

Adults 20-29 are the highest COVID-19 case demographic, she said. 

"We’re seeing much younger people being infected and having severe reactions resulting in hospitalizations,” Rush said.

The rate of COVID-19 cases is reaching a level not seen since last winter when hospitals had to make changes then to continue to provide care, said Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan. 

“Last winter, there were some adjustments at hospitals made around elective surgeries and a range of other considerations," Allan said. "At this stage, we’re hearing that they still currently have capacity, but it’s really a combination of things that we’re facing."

Although hospitals aren't facing the same issues as last winter, Allan said soon respiratory viruses like the flu will also cause hospital cases to spike, which will likely strain hospital capacity even more.

Ohio is divided into regions to share resources so that if one hospital fills up, another hospital can take patients or share supplies. Northeast Ohio is Region 2, and while there are still beds available some hospitals are close to reaching capacity on some days. 

"We are at a little over 300 patients with COVID-19 at our Ohio hospitals, with about 100 of those patients in the ICU," said Andrea Pacetti, a spokesperson for Cleveland Clinic, in an email. 

"We are seeing an increasing number of patients with COVID-19 in our ICUs, and we closely monitor bed capacity at each of our hospitals. While some of our ICUs nearly reach capacity on certain days, we still have available ICU beds within our health system and are able to continue providing critical care to those patients in need," Pacetti said.

The majority of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated, she said. 

One in 13 hospitalized patients in Ohio have COVID-19, and 1 in 7 patients in Ohio's Intensive Care Units are COVID positive, according to data from the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA). 

If the rate continues, OHA spokesperson John Palmer said hospitals will have to start thinking about postponing elective procedures. 

"Hospitals need to be prepared for other emergency situations that can arise in a community requiring ICU care," Palmer said in an email. "Inpatient services for electives will likely be re-evaluated to determine if surgeries can be safely rescheduled at a later time to alleviate the strain on hospital resources and caregivers."

Cuyahoga, and nearly every Ohio county, is at the highest level of transmission or spread of the virus based on the metrics established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Ashtabula county is the only exception.

The case count is currently around 250 cases per 100,000, which is 16 percent higher than last week's average, Rush said

 

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