LIMA — Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to rise in the Lima region as Ohio broke another record on Thursday with 4,961 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.
Lima hospitals have already started postponing some elective procedures to ensure there are enough staff available to care for the rising share of COVID-19 patients, which reached 91 between Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Memorial Health System Wednesday.
Those numbers are expected to increase as the region’s coronavirus epidemic escalates, creating a challenging situation for Lima hospitals and those in the surrounding counties.
In the last two weeks alone, Putnam County has diagnosed 1,115 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people—more than 10 times the rate of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies as high incidence and nearly double the rate of new cases reported two weeks ago.
Auglaize, Mercer, Allen and Van Wert counties are on a similar trajectory, with Allen County reporting roughly the same number of cases per capita as Putnam County did two weeks ago.
“The bottom line is, it’s going up exponentially,” said Dr. Dennis Morris, chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs for Lima Memorial Health System.
Dr. Matt Owens, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health-St. Rita’s, said supplies of personal protective equipment and bed space are stable. But staffing remains a key issue for Lima hospitals as their COVID-19 patient population grows.
St. Rita’s, which recently had to call a diversion because its emergency department was so overwhelmed, has brought in several traveling nurses to help with the surge of COVID-19 patients. And Lima Memorial is preparing to reinstate visitor restrictions to protect staff and patients from exposure to the virus.
The area hospitals have been sharing COVID-19 data since March too, which has allowed them to determine where beds and personal protective equipment are available at any given time and will allow the hospitals to spread patients around as the situation worsens.
But if the trend continues, those patients may eventually need to be transported outside of the region.
“There are parts of our state that aren’t feeling the burden nearly as much as we are,” Morris said, “so there would be opportunity to offload some patients if we had to. But I’d rather dampen the curve here and cut down the transmission.”