COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio reached a grim pandemic milestone Monday with more than 5,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, well more than double the number on Nov. 1.
The news prompted Gov. Mike DeWine call a special Monday press conference to invite several health-care professionals to discuss what they’re facing in dealing with sick patients.
Dr. Andy Thomas, chief clinical officer of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, said the influx of new hospitalizations has prompted one unidentified hospital in northern Ohio to bring in a refrigerated trailer because its morgue was full.
Of 5,080 hospitalized patients as of Monday, 1,180 were in intensive care units, Thomas said.
Ohio’s new daily infections have consistently hovered between 6,000 and 9,000 since Nov. 12, and the state reported 6,631 new coronavirus cases Monday, which was below the state’s three-week average.
The new hospitalization record comes after the state admitted 357 more virus patients as of Monday. That’s more than the three-week average of 296 new hospitalizations per day, according to the state.
Another 30 deaths, including 12 in Summit County, pushed the state’s total to 6,429.
Stacey Morris, an interim nurse manager at Cleveland Clinic Akron General’s primary COVID-19 unit, also said the number of patients has increased dramatically, adding staff have found the disease to be unpredictable.
“Something we’ve noticed since March is just how fast these patients deteriorate,” she said, adding some patients in their 30s and 40s with no obvious underlying conditions “do very poorly.”
“There’s no silver bullet — no magic bullet to deal with this,” she added. “We have a couple people, two to three every day that, they’re not doing very well with this.”
DeWine asked Morris what she would say to people who might believe the virus is not dangerous or deadly.
“I just want people to take it seriously,” she responded. “This is not a hoax. This is reality. We need to slow it like we did before … we can’t do it without everyone’s help.”
There have now been 421,063 coronavirus infections in Ohio, according to ODH’s new data, roughly 5% more than the 400,000 case barrier broken just two days ago.
The three-week average of of new daily coronavirus cases is now at 7,909 cases.
Dara Pence, a registered nurse at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, said staff are beginning to suffer from the increased case load. She said that unlike machines and equipment such as ventilators, the number of trained medical professionals is limited.
“Our team is strong, but everybody is only strong for so long,” she said. “We are at war with this disease and we are going to have PTSD. We are going to be struggling with this.
“If the community can come together and wear masks, socially distance, stay at home, stay safe, that’s what’s going to help us get through in the long run … we’re the last line of defense.”
DeWine said he hopes declining new cases of recent days proves to be a trend, but on Monday cautioned that it’s too soon to tell.
When the pandemic started, many companies asked their employees to work from home to limit contact. DeWine now wants employers who have brought workers back to the office to again consider letting them work from home.
“We have to do everything we can during this very serious time when our hospitals are really being hit,” DeWine said.
The latest case data was incomplete because the Ohio Department of Health is reviewing thousands of reports amid a surge in COVID-19 testing, according to the state. Ohio’s seven-day average positive test rate for the virus increased to 14.5% on Monday.
DeWine said he will announce on Thursday more specific rollout plans for the first COVID-19 vaccines.
A vaccine from Pfizer could be distributed in Ohio as early as Dec. 15 and another one from Moderna could come as soon as Dec. 22, DeWine said. Both companies have applied for emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Each vaccine requires two shots, and a limited number of doses are expected to be available this year to front-line health care workers and first responders. Results from vaccine trial for each company show the shots to be around 95% effective.