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Summit County officials brace for surge in COVID-19 cases after holiday

ICU beds around 90% capacity
Posted at 9:01 PM, Nov 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-28 23:17:30-05

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Two Northeast Ohio counties are already purple on the state's Public Health Advisory System. Earlier this week, the Ohio Department of Health singled out another county near the tipping point.

Summit County is on the state's watch list for counties that could turn from red to purple.

"In some way you think this really can't be happening to us, but the reality is it is," said county Health Director Donna Skoda about the last nine months navigating the pandemic.

Part of the issue is the number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in Summit County is shrinking.

"The last information that we looked at in regards to being full, it was about 90% capacity," Skoda said. "We could be about two weeks away from filling our hospital and also needing additional staff."

County officials are watching the next two weeks to see what the Thanksgiving holiday impact will be on the healthcare system in the area.

The latest numbers from the state came out on Nov. 26. The data shows the two-week number for cases in the county is 3,778.

There were more than 698 cases in the county per 100,000 residents.

Right now, there are four counties in the state sitting at the highest incidence rate for COVID-19.

Lake, Lorain, Franklin, and Montgomery all tipped into the highest color code earlier in November.

With the increase in cases, comes an increase in hospitalizations and that worries Dr. Brian Harte.

"We have between 55 and 60 critical care beds here at Cleveland Clinic, Akron General," Harte said. "Pretty much every day for the past two to three weeks, we've been at or near capacity."

Harte is the president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General.

He said if the beds fill up at this hospital, patients will be diverted to other hospitals.

"We try to do that as a last resort for the sake of the patients and families. But it is an option. The problem is it's not much of an option when all the hospitals are currently facing the same situation," Harte said.

The hospital is working to make more ICU and critical care beds to expand availability.

Not only are hospitals across the country facing a bed shortage, they are also facing staffing shortages. Healthcare workers are getting sick while trying to keep people healthy.

"This is this has been physically and emotionally beyond exhausting, particularly for critical care nurses," Harte said.

As staffing reserves dwindle, hospitals will have to make decisions about how to operate.

"So eventually you won't serve all your rooms. You will close units if you don't have staff to cover safely," Skoda said.

Both Harte and Skoda implore people to heed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC recommends people wear masks, stay six feet apart, wash hands regularly and stay home especially if you are sick.

RELATED: 'The exhaustion is actually palpable': Ohio healthcare workers understaffed, overwhelmed with COVID-19 surge

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