LIMA — As case rates continue to climb in the region, roughly 1 out of 100 in can now claim that they personally had come down with a case of COVID-19, according to state data.
Gov. Mike DeWine gave an update on the local numbers during a quick stop at the Allen County Airport Monday, where he asked residents to do what’s necessary to cut down on community spread as northwest Ohio becomes the largest concentration of COVID-19 cases in the state.
“The CDC rates high-incidence cases. It is 100 cases per 100,000 per two-week period of time. That’s the national norm. Every county in the state of Ohio now has a high positivity. When we’re in western Ohio, the numbers are just astronomical,” DeWine said.
Currently, the incidence rate in Allen County is 947 per 100,000. Auglaize is 992, and Putnam is 1,364.
“What’s disturbing is these numbers have been high for some period of time,” DeWine said.
During Monday’s press event, Dr. Dennis Morris, chief medical officer with Lima Memorial Health System, provided the local hospitalization data.
“Six weeks ago in the two Lima hospitals and the surrounding community hospitals, we had 30 COVID patients. Today, we have 141. In order for us to adequately and effectively care for all other serious medical issues that are present, we must do everything we can to stop the spread of this COVID virus.”
Morris gave a further breakdown of hospitals specifically in Allen County. Counting both Lima Memorial and Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center, there are currently 100 people with COVID-19 being treated.
As for healthcare resources, Morris said the most important issue stressing the hospitals are the limited number of healthcare workers available to treat COVID-19 patients. He said earlier in the year that places with high infection rates were bringing in workers from other areas. Today, that’s not possible. Essentially, every healthcare system throughout the nation needs help.
“My greater concern is the number of individuals that are calling in sick or have to be quarantined, because those people, there are really no replacements,” Moore said. “Both hospitals, we’re trying to get more nursing, using locum (temporary) nurses, traveling nurses, those types of things. But these are skilled physicians, respiratory therapists and so forth. And there’s not a lot of those out there that are already employed that we use.”
Morris emphasized that anyone in need of medical care should still seek it despite new visitor restrictions put in place at local hospitals.
“Hospitals are safe. Ohioans are encouraged to keep up with their preventative and routine health care and to contact their physician and provider when needed. This includes well visits, checkups, as well as injuries and illnesses. Every day, hospitals are actively cleaning areas and surfaces as well as maintaining equipment and rooms,” Morris said.
Since hospitalization and death rates lag behind case number data, officials stressed more problems are in store for the future if the region’s numbers continue to increase.
To curb this trend, DeWine again encouraged residents to wear masks in public and to try to limit the number of people they meet with by even 10% to 20% within the next few weeks.
“So if we can take some of that activity down, and we can just be more careful. Just for the next few weeks, if we do that in the next few weeks and take these numbers down, we will accomplish a great deal. …” DeWine said. “I’m not talking about people who go into stores and want to make an issue, we have nothing to do about them. But the rest of people, we can do something.”
DeWine’s words were emphasized this week by a health order signed just this past Friday. Under the updated order, retail businesses not following the state’s requirements to keep businesses clean and require masks can be issued a warning and then shut down for 24 hours for further non-compliance.
The governor said agents with the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation Retail Compliance Unit had been sent to inspect retailers starting this Monday.
“It’s not like this is going on forever. It is not going on forever, and the end is now in sight. We just got to hang in there,” DeWine said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.