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Coronavirus hospitalizations surge in Ohio's rural counties as record numbers continue to rise

Ohio regions
Posted at 6:58 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 07:12:07-05

CLEVELAND — Thursday marked another record-breaking day for coronavirus cases in Ohio — 7,101 — with a near-record 268 COVID-related hospitalizations.

“At the rate we’re going, this is not sustainable,” Governor Mike DeWine said at the Thursday news conference. While it’s impacting all of Ohio’s 88 counties, it’s most troubling in the rural counties that are seeing the highest rate of spread.

"There are some hospitals that are at capacity when it comes to what they've allocated for COVID-specific treatments,” said John Palmer of the Ohio Hospital Association. “So what they're doing is some of them are making adjustments to convert other areas of the hospital or the facility to take on more COVID."

The Ohio Hospital Association is in constant communication with its member hospitals who are in constant communication with others in their region. Ohio is broken up into eight of them, should patients need to be diverted if they're reaching capacity.

"We saw a lot of that activity early in the spring when there were some surges happening around the prisons, prison system in the state and in the nursing homes,” Palmer said. “We saw that type of coordination happening to make sure that patients got to facilities that were able to take them."

To put the rural numbers in perspective, the state's list of the counties with the highest rate of occurrence last week showed, of the top 12, only 1, Allen County, had a population greater than 50,000. Two more — Miami and Lake — joined the list Thursday. Number one though is Putnam County, just west of Findlay. The 429 cases they've seen over a two-week period is small compared to Cuyahoga County's 4,744, but their population is a fraction Cuyahoga's. The 429 cases are equal to 1.2 percent of all of their residents getting COVID in just a two-week period. That same percentage, if it was in Cuyahoga County, would equal more than 15,561 new cases.

The issue going forward isn't beds or ventilators that can be added, it's the nurses and doctors. In the spring, Ohio sent health care workers to other states, but if we needed the favor returned, they're not in a position to do so.

“Frankly a lot of states are in worse situations than what we are and they're struggling as well too,” Palmer said. “That might not be as feasible because we find ourselves battling this as a country even more aggressively in a different area.”

All of this continues to take a financial toll on Ohio hospitals as well, Palmer said. “Hospitals are still losing about $6 million a day. We're over about $4 billion in losses from this pandemic, but we have received some CARES Act funding, which has helped offset those losses.”