The State of Ohio reported a dizzying 11,885 new positive coronavirus cases Monday, surpassing the previous daily record by 3,000. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine attributed the explosion, in part, to a weekend backlog at two state testing laboratories, but noted that the extent of the virus' spread was now straining the state's capacity to timely document cases.
Doctors at four of the state's top regional medical facilities joined DeWine digitally at a press conference Monday and stressed that the coronavirus is now "everywhere." The surge in cases is now burdening the state's medical supplies and personnel. Hospital systems in multiple zones across the state are now, for the first time, transferring ventilators among themselves.
Dr. Andrew Wexner of the OSU Medical Center said doctors "can't sound the alarm bell loud enough" for people in Ohio to change their behavior. He said that within a couple of weeks, hospitals would begin having to make "tough decisions" about the allocation of resources. Already, he said, doctors and nurses in ambulatory, outpatient settings have been conscripted into service at hospitals for COVID care. Dr. Ronda Lehman, President of Mercy Health, said the same situation had occurred in Lima.
Medical personnel across the state are contracting the coronavirus at high rates, depleting staffs further. That's on top of the extraordinary burnout that hospital workers are experiencing after months of treating COVID patients. DeWine likened the experience of health care workers last week to finishing a marathon and then immediately starting another one.
The personnel situation is so strained, doctors said, that the major hospital systems probably won't be able to stand up the satellite field hospitals envisioned early in the pandemic because they simply don't have the staff to work them.
Dr. Richard Lofgren, President and CEO of UC Health, said that it would make more sense to expand the footprint of COVID care within hospital instead of at new locations. But he said that it was up to Ohioans to protect these medical workers.
Despite the record-shattering growth in cases, hospitalizations and intensive-care patients (more now than at any point during the pandemic), Gov. DeWine issued no new orders Monday. He reiterated the importance of the curfew, of limiting social interactions and of keeping Thanksgiving gatherings small.
Dr. Thomas said that Ohioans would have to change their behavior not only for Thanksgiving, but for "the December holidays and New Year's."
When asked if he would consider stricter measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, DeWine said that "it all comes down to personal responsibility."
"We've got to give the people in Ohio time to turn this around," he said.
This story was first published by Cleveland Scene, CityBeat's sister paper