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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.

'We're Treading Water': Tuscarawas County ER Doctor Braces for a Long Winter Dealing with COVID-19 Surge

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Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital
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Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital in Dover is at about 80% capacity, according to data from NPR.

An emergency room doctor at Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital in Dover says he’s bracing for a long winter as the coronavirus pandemic stretches his facility to the limit. Data from NPR show 81% of the Tuscarawas County hospital's adult inpatient beds are full, and more than half of those are coronavirus patients. Union ER Dr. Kevin Miller says they’re facing an uphill battle.

"I feel like we've been treading water now for the last several weeks," he said.

Miller says he's grateful the hospital has adapted and found room to be able to handle the surge, but he fears the day when perhaps they may no longer be able to.

"I feel like we've been treading water now for the last several weeks."
Dr. Kevin Miller

Running out of room and needing more time
Miller says every aspect of the hospital is full, including the ICU and their step-down units. So, the ER has become a place where patients have to stay longer. He says one big challenge is the time it takes to put on all the personal protective equipment takes away from the time he needs to be seeing patients to keep them moving through the department.

Miller, who's in his mid-40s, says anyone at any age can get really sick.

"One of my patients right now is a little younger than myself who's been sick for a little over a month with COVID symptoms. Those who get COVID/pneumonia, they all don't recover quickly."

"This may be the longest winter that we've ever had, from a healthcare standpoint."
Dr. Kevin Miller

He says he's been disheartened by people who have "politicized" the virus.

"Visitors aren't allowed in the hospital so they don't see what's going on with patients. They don't see the struggle that we have to take care of folks and how sick they are."

Hispanic and Amish communities affected at different times
Miller is also the fire chief at the nearby village of Sugarcreek, which has a large Amish population.

"Different segments of our population were hit [with the virus] at different times. We have a large Hispanic population and they had their peak in the spring months. A month and a half ago, it seemed to go through the Amish community. It seemed like every day we were transporting with our ambulance two or three patients from the Amish community that were having symptoms with COVID. That fortunately has slowed down at this point."

Miller attributes the early fall spike among the Amish community to churches returning to in-person services.

As for what's ahead, Miller says he's concerned.

"This may be the longest winter that we've ever had, from a healthcare standpoint."