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Health Care Workers Plead For Ohioans To Take Precautions To Limit COVID-19 Spread

A hospital sign outside Grant Medical Center in downtown Columbus.
David Holm
A hospital sign outside Grant Medical Center in downtown Columbus.

On the first weekday after the Thanksgiving holiday, Ohio hit yet another record for COVID-19 patients in hospitals, and for those in intensive care units and on ventilators. While case numbers have dropped a bit, medical professionals are saying the battle against the virus is raging on.

Ohio hospital patient counts grew over the holiday weekend to 5,060, which accounts for 18.77% of all hospital beds in the state. The number of people in intensive care units grew to 1,180, which is 24.82% of all beds in the state, and the number of people on ventilators grew to 682.

Medical professionals said that, since there are more treatments and better understanding of COVID-19 now, death totals aren’t climbing with case numbers like they have before. But they say they’re seeing COVID patients who are younger and were healthy.

Dara Pence, ICU nurse manager at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, said she wishes she could bring people with her to walk through her unit.

“But then, I don’t wish anybody to wish to ever see what we have seen, what are our nurses are going through," Pence said. "Our nurses, our team is amazing, our team is strong. But everybody is only so strong for so long.”

Jamie Giere is the COVID Unit Team Leader at Upper Valley Medical Center in Miami County in southwest Ohio. Mirroring Pence, Gierre said she wishes she could wear a GoPro for just four hours so people could see what nurses and others are experiencing.

“I don’t think the public truly understands what we go through every day – the heartbreak and the emotion and seeing the fear on these patients’ faces. This is no joke. This is very serious," Giere said.

Giere and others said they’re worried about their own health, and about how to care for the huge surge in patients – many of whom are in isolation and some who will die alone.

Gov. Mike DeWine moved up his usual Tuesday news conference on the coronavirus to Monday. Dr. Andy Thomas from Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus said that statewide, there’s been a 200% increase in patients in just a month.

“We crossed 5,000 inpatients with COVID in Ohio’s hospitals for the first time ever during the course of the pandemic. Just back on November 1, we were just under 1,700 patients," Thomas said.

Thomas said the jumps in cases and patients in rural areas are especially concerning.

And Thomas said those rising hospitalizations are translating into a very different climate in the calls he has with others in Ohio’s three hospital zones, which went from weekly, to more than once a week, to now daily – even on Thanksgiving.

“It feels palpably different when we’re on our zone calls with hospital leaders around the state than it did a month ago or even a couple of weeks ago – the level of anxiety and concern," Thomas said. "In fact, we had one hospital in the northern part of the state that had to call in a refrigeration truck because they had exceeded the capacity of their onsite morgue."

Neither Thomas or DeWine identified that hospital.

DeWine also announced at his briefing that two Ohio prison workers have died, the first employee deaths in the system in several months. They are Steven Cooke, who worked at Dayton Correctional and was with the department for over a decade, and Mark Jones, who worked at Trumbull Correctional for 26 years.

DeWine also said the backlog of antigen tests not reported in the state’s daily numbers is down to 7,500, from a high of 15,000. He says the state will soon be switching over to guidelines from the CDC on reporting those tests, which are less sensitive than the PCR tests the state uses for its positive results. That will mean a one-day surge of positive cases sometime in the next 10 days.

DeWine was also asked if he planned any future health orders closing down businesses. He replied that lockdowns are "very detrimental" when it comes to mental health and drug overdoses – and that there’s some evidence Ohioans did pull back and we didn't see cases grow, so he’s ask all Ohioans to limit themselves more by not traveling and further restricting their face-to-face interactions with others.