Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton made a shocking prediction at Thursday's COVID-19 press conference: During "peak surge," she said, Ohio could see as many as 6,000-8,000 new cases of the coronavirus every day.
Given the state's limited testing capacity, in which tests are reserved for the highest risk patients, Acton said there'd be no way to document those numbers conclusively. But Ohio would certainly see the impact at hospitals and intensive care units across the state.
For now, the virus's slope continues its steady rise—867 total cases, 223 total hospitalizations and 15 total deaths as of Thursday afternoon—but Acton presented slides of new models created by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University which showed that, if not for the state's early aggressive actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Ohio could be at peak levels of infection today.
By physically distancing as much as possible, Acton said, Ohioans had likely reduced the impact on hospitals in the state by 50-75 percent.
"But we need to do more," she said. "We are buying time. The further we spread out the infection, the more time hospitals have to equip themselves."
Gov. DeWine said that Ohio must pursue a "big expansion" of hospital beds, suggesting that "nearly double" the current capacity would be prudent. Acton said additional capacity will become increasingly vital as the virus spreads and symptoms become more severe. Patients with COVID-19 can sometimes require stays as long as 20 days.
She likened the hospital capacity dynamic to a restaurant planning ahead for a busy night, and managers and servers trying to "flip tables" in an hour or an hour-and-a-half to accommodate as many customers as possible.
"What we're dealing with is kind of like a long, four-course meal," she said.
Acton also unveiled a statewide dashboard for COVID-19 data. In addition to the daily updates that the state has provided on its website, the dashboard makes available county-level and demographic data. It was assembled by Acton's team of analysts in the state health department, whom she affectionately calls "The Force."