COVID-19 testing triples in UH emergency rooms, experts preparing for new surge

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Posted at 10:17 PM, Jul 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-13 06:39:05-04

CLEVELAND — As confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio continue to rise, health experts fear that large gatherings and people seemingly fed up with stay-at-home orders may overwhelm the healthcare system in Northeast Ohio.

As cases surge and hospitals reach capacity in other states, healthcare workers and infectious disease experts are pleading with Ohioans to stay home, practice social distancing, and wear masks in public.

Dr. Claudia Hoyen said in late June, University Hospitals emergency rooms were testing between 60 and 80 people a day.

Hoyen added approximately 250 patients were tested in the emergency room on Friday at one particular campus.

“Whether it’s young people getting sick or old people getting sick, at some point, there will be a tipping point where we overwhelm the healthcare system and that’s what we need to be mindful of,” Hoyen said.

With community spread increasing and an uptick in cases locally, Hoyen said University Hospitals has set up multiple outdoor triage areas to accommodate another potential surge.

“Preserve the healthcare system,” Hoyen said. “We don’t want to get to a point where someone who’s having a heart attack or a stroke doesn’t have access to the care that they need because the system is so overwhelmed.”

An Alliance councilwoman said she is still struggling physically after testing positive for COVID-19 two months ago.

“I sat on the side of my bed and I cried,” Cindy King said. “And I laid my hands on myself and I started to pray to God and asked God to please help me to breathe.”

Recovery hasn’t been easy for King, who tested positive for COVID-19 more than once despite quarantining for weeks.

“It would just hit me like a ton of bricks and I would end up back in the bed or back in my recliner chair,” King said. “The fever. Chills. One night I was just freezing and shaking.”

King’s first negative COVID-19 test results came more than a month after initially testing positive for the virus.

“Last Monday when I woke up was the first time I really felt good, like myself,” King said.

King, along with health experts, are urging Ohioans to mask up.

“To let you know that it’s not just a 14-day process,” King said, “This is several months. It’s been several months for me now and I’m still not 100%. The only thing I can just keep telling people is to wear the mask.”

Despite early indications that the virus primarily affected seniors and those with pre-existing health conditions, Hoyen is calling for teenagers and young adults to behave responsibly and wear masks in public.

“I realize that they’re not normally a part of our lives, and they won’t be a part of our lives forever,” Hoyen said. “This is something that we’re going through that if we do it wisely, we’ll get through okay.”