Emergency Bed Capacity A Concern As Hospitals See Surge In COVID-19 Cases
It’s been eight months since the first big wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations swept across the Dayton region. And with record numbers of coronavirus cases and hospital admissions now surging across the state, there are signs the pandemic is taking a deeper toll on some Miami Valley health workers.
More than 22,000 Ohioans have been hospitalized with COVID-19, the state Health Department reports, with at least 4,223 patients receiving critical care in the ICU.
Kettering Hospital COVID-19 director Dr. Hemant Shah says frontline workers have learned a lot in the months since the coronavirus pandemic first hit Ohio about treating coronavirus patients.
What never gets easier is watching COVID-19 patients die alone in the ICU, while others recover and are released only to come back again and again with the often serious, longterm side effects of the disease.
Shah says COVID care teams that include physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other specialists are exhausted.
"The surge is probably a misnomer now," he says. "This is almost like a sustained bombardment with the surge. We expected it to be like a wave to crest and disappear. It is not disappearing. This thing is going on and on."
And, unlike during the spring surge, Shah says there is less time between COVID-19 patients now.
"We're just a little bit tired," he says. "This cannot be sustainable. Every day we're trying to find new places to keep them, to hospitalize them, to take care of them."
As coronavirus admissions rise, he worries about the possibility of facing a shortage of ICU beds for non-coronavirus patients, which has not happened yet, he says.
Shah and other hospital staff are also planning for additional potential spikes in COVID-19 admissions in the weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday, when, as public health officials have warned, could fuel increased transmission of the highly infectious virus.
The Ohio Court of Claims recently ordered the Department of Health to release public records revealing the number of beds and ventilators available for COVID-19 patients at individual hospitals in counties across the state.
Hospital capacity is a major concern this fall and winter, said Gov. Mike DeWine last week, as Ohio's coronavirus spread reaches its most, "intense, widespread, and dangerous," surge to date.
“With this new wave of COVID-19, the onset of flu season, and an already-exhausted group of healthcare workers, there are serious concerns that there won’t be enough people to fully staff our healthcare facilities in the next few weeks,” said DeWine. “If we don’t change this, Ohio won’t be able to provide appropriate care for COVID patients or for Ohioans who require other emergency care for things like accidents, strokes, and heart attacks. Hospitals will again be forced to postpone important, but less urgent, care.”
In an effort to curb the virus' spread, Gov. Mike DeWine again tightened restrictions on mask wearing, including rules requiring retail establishments to enforce mask-wearing, and detailed restrictions on large gatherings such as weddings and funerals. He has said stricter enforcement of public health guidelines could be coming.
“Despite the health order that limited mass gatherings to 10 people that was signed in April remaining in effect, we have seen rampant spread of the virus as a result of banquets, wedding receptions, and social gatherings following funerals,” said DeWine in his regular COVID-19 briefing to reporters. “We have seen great tragedy associated with such events. It’s not the ceremonies causing the problem. It’s the party afterward.”
The restrictions for wedding receptions, funeral gatherings, and other mass events, in effect Tuesday, are as follows:
- No socializing or activities in open congregate areas and no dancing.
- Guests must be seated at all times. Traditional wedding reception events such as first dance, toasts, tossing the bouquet and cutting the cake are permitted.
- If serving food and beverages, guests must be served at their seats. No self-serve buffets and no self-serve bar areas permitted.
- Masks must be worn at all times unless actively consuming food or beverages.
- No more than 10 people should be seated at a table and those individuals must be from the same household.
This order does not apply to religious observances; First Amendment protected speech, including petition or referendum circulators, and any activity by media; and to governmental meetings which include meetings that are required to be open to the public.
A county-by-county breakdown outlining the presence of COVID-19 in all of Ohio's 88 counties can be found on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System's website.