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Skyrocketing COVID-19 Cases in Cuyahoga County Shattering Records

trajectory of COVID-19 cases in Cuyahoga County
Cuyahoga County Board of Health
Dr. Johnie Rose, program director of preventive medicine residency at Case Western Reserve University, shows the trajectory for new COVID-19 cases in Cuyahoga County, if precautions, such as better masking and social distancing, are not taken. The graph was displayed at a press conference of county leaders Nov. 13.

Daily COVID-19 cases shattered a new record high in Ohio Friday, with more than 8,000 cases reported over the past 24 hours, according to state health officials.

Cases are also skyrocketing in Cuyahoga County, with more than 500 new cases reported Friday, the highest number of cases ever reported in a single day in the county, Health Commissioner Terry Allan said in a press conference Friday with county officials.

"We are now in a very slippery slope," he said.

Hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions are also increasing, said Jana Rush, the county’s director of epidemiology.

Area hospitals are reporting an increase in emergency room visits, and some facilities have postponed nonessential surgeries as a precaution to ensure enough beds and staff are available, Allan said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, this is the first time hospital officials are seriously concerned about staffing shortages and capacity, County Executive Armond Budish said.

 “I never got the sense they were really concerned about their ability to serve all those who were ill, until now,” he said. “I’ve been told that [the different hospital systems] have now come together in an unprecedented way to coordinate the care of COVID-19 patients and to share resources.”

Overall, more than 1,400 new cases and 28 deaths were reported this week, health officials said. Racial disparities continue to persist, with African Americans being twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalized as their white counterparts, Allan said.

Cuyahoga County numbers do not include the city of Cleveland.

The county is averaging more than 300 new cases being reported each day, which has more than doubled the daily average a month ago, Rush said.

The number of positive COVID-19 tests in the county has significantly increased over the past several weeks, Rush said. Of all the COVID-19 tests taken at county hospitals this week, 14.9 percent come back positive, up from about 10 percent last week, she said. This is the highest testing positivity rate the county has seen, she said.

If cases continue to rise at the rate they are increasing now, the county is projected to see upwards of 2,000 new cases per day by the end of the month, said Dr. Johnie Rose, program director of preventive medicine residency at Case Western Reserve University.

“This is not a sustainable level of cases,” he said. “No health care system in the world can absorb this, so clearly, something needs to change about our behavior.”

To change this concerning trajectory, people should reduce their social contact with others and wear masks in public, Rose said. Health officials also encouraged residents not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday and to only gather with people in their own household.

The influx of cases has also made it more difficult for county officials to conduct contact tracing, Allan said. Board of health employees are being pulled away from working on other programs to assist with making case calls and contact tracing, he said.

If the situation does not improve, case callers may need to start prioritizing which patients they call first due to the high volume, he said.

 “We may need to triage and contact cases based on the seriousness of the illness, fatality risk, and potential to lead to wide exposure of clusters,” Allan said.

Budish also announced he is extending the county’s fiscal emergency order, which allows county organizations to better coordinate with state agencies to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, through June of 2021. The executive order was previously set to expire at the end of this year, he said.
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