LIMA — A two-month surge in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations has inevitably led to an increasing number of deaths attributed to COVID-19, a deadly trend that will likely continue into December as experts warn of yet another possible surge after Thanksgiving that could overwhelm hospitals already contending with rising COVID-19 patient populations and staffing shortages.
Since October, there have been at least 17 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Allen County; 22 deaths in Putnam County; 18 deaths in Auglaize County and at least nine such deaths in Van Wert County, which went four months without a single COVID-19-related death, according to Ohio Department of Health records.
There may be more deaths that have yet to be reported due to a lag in reporting between county health departments and the Ohio Department of Health.
In November alone, Allen County reported roughly 2,400 coronavirus infections, accounting for more than 2% of the county’s population and nearly 50% of all coronavirus cases identified since March.
That’s more than twice as many cases as were reported in October, the previous highest-incidence month.
It’s a bleak but unsurprising trend, as Allen, Auglaize, Putnam, Mercer and Van Wert counties have been the epicenter of Ohio’s fall coronavirus surge.
The Thanksigiving holiday could quickly worsen the situation.
While Gov. Mike DeWine and public health agencies pleaded with the public to plan alternative celebrations — virtual dinners or delivering to-go meals to family and friends who would otherwise spend the holiday alone — it is unlikely that many Ohioans heeded those warnings as pandemic fatigue sets in.
Allen County Public Health issued one such last-minute warning Wednesday, urging residents here to cancel or not attend gatherings outside their immediate household.
“We can’t rely on how we feel to tell if we are contagious,” Allen County Public Health Commissioner Kathy Luhn said, warning that a person infected with the virus may be contagious for two days before showing symptoms, while others may never show symptoms at all.
“With the amount of community spread of COVID-19 happening right now, we are encouraging everyone to be proactive. The virus travels person to person, and the only way to slow the spread is to limit our contact with other people.”
Weeks earlier, DeWine briefly considered new restrictions for bars, restaurants and gyms — venues where it is difficult or impossible to wear a mask consistently — after issuing a revised mask order to increase compliance in stores across the state. DeWine backed off his threat, opting instead for a three-week curfew and amplified stay-at-home messaging in the hopes that Ohioans will voluntarily limit their social interactions while businesses remain open.