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Government & Politics
WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

COVID-19 Causing a Crisis at Ohio Hospitals; Summit, Other NEO Counties Go Purple

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Ohio Department of Health.
Seven of the eight purple counties this week are in Northeast Ohio. While Franklin County is no longer at purple alert, healthcare providers say the situation there is still a concern as it is in most counties around the state.

Gov. Mike DeWine invited medical professionals to his Thursday press briefing to explain the dire situation for hospitals across Ohio.

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Dr. Nora Colburn is an epidemiologist at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center.

“Quite simply, we’re in crisis,” Dr. Nora Colburn from OSU’s Wexner Medical Center said. “Hospitals across the state are running out of beds…Our nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists and other staff are burned out and stretched thin.”

The state is experiencing a continued surge in hospitalizations, with a 200% increase in patients in just a month.

Dr. Andy Thomas from OSU’s Wexner Medical Center said the state was still over the threshold it reached Monday of 5,000 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals across the state.

While many hospitals have expanded capacity to meet the surge in COVID-19 patients, Thomas explained it’s difficult to expand capacity in ICUs.

“In those intensive care units, one out of every three patients right now has COVID,” he said. “If that number continues to grow, that is going to crowd out the ability of non-COVID patients to get the care they need in an intensive care unit.”

The impact is felt more by rural hospitals in Regions 7 and 8 that are running at 120% of their normal ICU capacity. Thomas indicated that one of those hospitals requested extra ventilators over the weekend and was assisted by larger hospitals.

Thomas warned things could get worse for hospitals as the current influx of inpatients does not include virus spread from the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We still haven’t seen the impact of Thanksgiving in our hospital numbers. Usually, people are admitted a week after they’re diagnosed,” he said. “This is not the beginning of the end. This is not even the end of the beginning.”

Results from COVID-19 tests administered today should start to detect cases from Thanksgiving gatherings.

Increased Positivity Rate
Ohio has a 15% positivity rate for COVID-19 and DeWine said that number is going up.

The rate put the state on the travel advisory list.

“This is the first week since April where Ohio’s positivity for COVID-19 has increased above 15%,” DeWine said.

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The advisory comes with recommendations for Ohioans to stay home except for necessary trips for supplies, mask wearing and hand washing.

Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the high positivity rate should be a call to action.

“We really can work together to limit the spread and impact of this virus…Remember this virus spreads from me to you when we’re near each other.”

The updated Public Health Advisory Map for this week indicated five new counties were upgraded to Level 4: Medina, Portage, Richland, Stark and Summit Counties.

Lake, Lorain and Montgomery Counties remained at Level 4 while Franklin County was downgraded to Level 3.

Cuyahoga, Fairfield and Madison Counties were put on the Level 4 Watch list.

Vaccine Preparation
On Tuesday, DeWine toured the Ohio Department of Health’s Receipt, Store, and Stage warehouse that is preparing for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines.

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Fran and Gov. Mike DeWine tour the ODH Receipt, Store, and Stage warehouse on Tuesday.

The facility, operated by the National Guard, plans to break up the shipments from vaccine makers into smaller packages to distribute across the state.

DeWine previously said he expects the state could receive the first shipment from Pfizer vaccine near Dec. 15 and another shipment from Moderna possibly by Dec. 22.

Neither company has been granted emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration as of Thursday afternoon.

Though he has confidence in the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, DeWine stressed that the time when enough shots have been administered to be effective is still a ways away.

In the meantime, he wants Ohioans to follow the protocols to slow the spread of the virus.

“We can get there if we all work together and do the things we need to do every day,” he said.

DeWine anticipates 98,000 doses in the first round from Pfizer that will be distributed as soon as possible.

Due to the limited quantity, state officials said mandating a COVID-19 vaccine would not be realistic at this time.

DeWine said he would provide more information about the vaccine distribution plan on Friday.