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Grim realities of COVID-19 set in as Ohio hospital orders refrigerated truck after morgue reaches capacity

Facilities forced to borrow ventilators
Posted at 7:07 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 19:07:44-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge in the State of Ohio, the effects of the virus are being seen in a grim way with one hospital even having to call in a refrigeration truck after exceeding capacity in the morgue, according to Dr. Andrew Thomas of The Ohio State Wexler Medical Center, who joined Gov. Mike DeWine's press briefing Monday afternoon.

Right now, the state has been broken down into several zones to focus on COVID-19 on a more intricate scale. Zone 1 includes three regions of the state that stretch from Toledo through Cleveland and Youngstown, Thomas said. Zone 2, which is the zone Thomas focuses on particularly, includes central Ohio counties up towards upper Sandusky and down into the southeastern part of the state. Zone 3 includes the Dayton and Cincinnati metropolitan areas.

Thomas said that regions seven and eight in Zone 2, which are more rural, have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 and that 40 to 50% of patients in that zone who are in the ICU or on a ventilator are there with the virus.

“It's a significant issue that we're concerned about with ICU capacity as COVID patients—as the total numbers grow—the place where especially smaller community hospitals or rural hospitals can't really expand their capacity is in intensive care. So we've heard a lot of concerns over the past couple of weeks about ICU capacity,” Thomas said.

It’s not just an isolated incident in a single region of the state, Thomas said. The strain on hospitals is happening across the state, as are the effects of the virus on those who contract it.

Across Ohio, one-third of patients in ICU beds have COVID-19.

Even more concerning, one out of every three patients on a ventilator across the state has COVID-19, according to Thomas.

"That's called crowding out. They're essentially going to start crowding out other people who need that level of care if we see these numbers continue to rise,” Thomas said.

As more and more Ohioans are hospitalized with the virus, hospitals are being forced to make difficult decisions about delaying care.

Summa Health recently suspended many of its elective procedures to ensure adequate staffing due to rising COVID-19 cases.

The strain is being felt by hospitals and health care workers all across Ohio and the capacity in some areas is being greatly exceeded.

Thomas said that a facility in Zone 2 was operating at about 130% of the normal ICU capacity and ran low on ventilators relatively quickly, having to pick more up from another facility.

In the northern part of Ohio, one hospital was forced to order a refrigeration truck because their on-site morgue for patients who have died had exceeded capacity, Thomas said.

These harsh realities are something medical professionals are asking Ohioans to remember, hoping that citizens will take the virus seriously and do what it takes to slow the spread.

“I just I don't think the public truly understands what we go through every day, that the heartbreak and the emotion and seeing the fear on these people, on these patients' faces. This is no joke. This is very serious. And I just want the public to realize that,” said Jamie Giere, a nurse and team leader for the COVID Unit at Premier Health’s Upper Valley Medical Center in Troy, Ohio. “This it's not a hoax. This is real. This is true. And working in the hospital, we're exhausted, totally. I want everyone to realize that just please take this seriously.”

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