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Health & Science

Akron General President Says the Stay-at-Home Order Is Buying His Staff Time to Prepare

Dr. Brian Harte
Jeff St. Clair
Dr. Brian Harte is president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General. He says no amount of medical innovation can prevent Akron's hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients if the public doesn't follow the strict prevention guidelines.

New models show a wave of coronavirus cases could be headed our way in Northeast Ohio.

The Cleveland Clinic’s latest estimates show the outbreak will peak in early May and could cause up to 10,000 new COVID-19 cases per day.

It’s a sobering picture, but our local hospitals are gearing up for the surge.

Dr. Brian Harte, president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General, says the new models of the outbreak's progress are scary. 

“When it happens," he says, "it'll be somewhere between fast and really fast.”

But Harte says the stay-at-home order in Ohio is buying time for hospitals to prepare for the surge.

His hospital is doing its best to get ready, but for now he says there’s a sense of  calm before the storm.

"We're hopeful and confident in our preparations," Harte says. "But there's also a bit of tension and anxiety in the air, because we don't know exactly what the future holds."

The Akron area has around 1,360 total hospital beds, according to Propublica, with 60% current occupancy.

Harte says no amount of hospital innovation can prevent the system from being overwhelmed if the public doesn’t practice physical distancing to slow the viral spread.

More testing needed
Weeks into the coronavirus outbreak, testing for COVID-19 remains limited in Ohio and across the nation.

Shortages in supplies have forced hospitals to test only the sickest patients and frontline healthcare workers.

Harte says the Cleveland Clinic can’t expand coronavirus testing beyond its main campus due to a shortage of lab equipment. He says that means health officals in the region are still 'flying blind' in terms of tracking its spread.

“We haven't had a spotlight that we can shine on where this disease is, who has this virus, and who is recovered from it, and that's what we need."  

Some private labs, including Abbott,  are developing testing protocols that don’t require the same quantity of lab equipment as current techniques.

But Harte says those are still weeks away.