COLUMBUS -- There were 4,358 COVID-19 patients in hospitals on Monday morning, an increase of 59 percent in just two weeks, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a press briefing.
"We also currently have 1,079 patients who are in the ICU, which is again far higher than we have seen so far during this pandemic," said DeWine, who was joined during the press conference by leaders of the three hospital zones established by the state to fight against the pandemic.
Ohio set a new high for positive COVID tests on Monday with 11,885 new cases, topping the record of 8,808 set on Friday, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
However, DeWine said Monday's numbers may be inflated because of a two-day delay in case reporting from the Cleveland Clinic and Mercy Health, as well as a backlog of about 12,000 less reliable rapid antigen tests the state is still double-checking.
The medical leaders all said the increase in COVID-19 patients has begun to impact the ability of hospitals and other medical facilities to provide care for non-COVID patients.
"We can't sound the alarm bell loud enough for people in Ohio to change their behavior. With Thanksgiving coming up, keep within your bubble. If you have family coming over, hopefully they've been quarantining for 14 days," said Dr. Andy Thomas, chief clinical officer with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The spread of the virus is also being felt by the medical workers caring for patients.
Dr. Robert Wyllie, chief of medical operations for the Cleveland Clinic, who leads the northern Ohio zone that includes Richland County, said, "My biggest concern today is that at the Cleveland Clinic we have 970 caregivers out because they are either on quarantine or they have active COVID infections. They are not catching it in the hospital, they are getting it in the community."
"Because of this, we have to take those who would have been doing elective surgeries and staff them instead in inpatient care. We need your help to prevent our caregivers from being sick and off work," Wylie said.
Dr. Richard Lofgren, president and CEO of UC Health, described the growth in hospitalizations as exponential.
"We're not planning for the surge -- the surge is here. We're approaching the point where the influx of COVID patients will displace non-COVID care," Lofgren said.
In responding to a question regarding potential usage of off-site facilities, such as the Columbus Convention Center, all of the medical leaders said medical staffing such sites at this point would be problematic.
According to the Ohio Dept. of Health website, Richland County has had 3,067 COVID cases with 254 total hospitalizations, 32 deaths and 1,808 presumed recoveries.
Of the 32 deaths, 12 (almost 38 percent) have come in October and November during the surge of the virus that began in September.
Local hospital leaders said last week Richland and Crawford counties were feeling the strain of the increased COVID-19 patient load.
"The community needs to be concerned about this. In March and April, we didn't see these kinds of numbers and it gave us time to prepare. We are seeing it now. I don't think it's something to be afraid of, but it's here and it's not going away soon," said Chris Adler, director of safety, security and emergency preparedness for Avita Health Systems.
There were 72 local COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday, according to Reed Richmond, educator for Richland Public Health.
DeWine also unveiled a new public service educational graphic, encouraging people to act responsibly during the holiday this week.
"When you go to Thanksgiving dinner this year, you'll bring everyone you've been around with you. Please stay safe and keep the celebrations small this week," DeWine said.
"We can turn around the increasing trend of cases and hospitalizations. The most important thing is what individuals do in their own lives. It comes down to personal responsibility."