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Cuyahoga Co. health board director overcome with emotion as she talks about COVID's impact on community

Posted at 6:52 PM, Dec 04, 2020

CLEVELAND — Romona Brazile, the Deputy Director of Prevention and Wellness for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, started her presentation during the county’s weekly COVID-19 briefing normally enough, giving kudos to a colleague for a program that has helped thousands of women receive cervical cancer screening.

But when Brazile started to recount the grim rise in COVID-19 cases in the county in recent weeks and the impact on her community, she was unable to hold back, and was overwhelmed with emotion during a typically sterile and formal news briefing.

“Two weeks ago, when we first started to see cases around 400, 600, 700, and then finally more than 1,100 cases in a day, I cried, because I realized what it would mean for our community,” she said, already choking up again. “And despite everything you're doing, it wasn't going to be enough.”

Brazile paused, trying to regain her composure.

“We're trying to reach everyone we can, and I knew when I saw those cases that we would have to start to triage,” she continued, tears beginning to stream down her face. “And for me personally, as a nurse, it's horrifying, but it's been necessary in the current situation that we're in. Just in November alone, we have received more than 15,000 confirmed cases, which is approximately 55% of the cases we have received since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Brazile regained her composure and detailed how the county has followed CDC and ODH guidance in prioritizing the surge of cases.

Cuyahoga County is now on the watch list for Level 4, the highest in the state health department’s Public Health Advisory System, because it currently meets six of the seven indicators for high COVID-19 incidence and spread. The county has a COVID-19 testing positivity rate of 21.4% over the past week.

Cuyahoga County had the 20th highest occurrence of COVID-19 among Ohio’s counties for the period of Nov. 18 to Dec. 1, with 786.4 cases per 100,000 residents, and 9,712 new cases over that period.

Hospital Region 2, which includes Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties, is currently at 24.7% available capacity for hospital beds and 19.8% capacity for ICU beds, with 1,007 COVID-positive patients in hospitals and 253 COVID-positive patients in the ICU.

As a result of this surge in cases, which county health board members say does not yet even include an expected rise from Thanksgiving, the county is preparing a request for refrigerated trucks to accommodate a surge in coronavirus-related deaths.

“We're not yet experiencing the rise of illness and deaths that will be coming from the other holiday parties or individuals who really don't like being told what to do,” County Executive Armond Budish said. “Let's be blunt about it: doing what we want isn't necessarily doing what's right. We have to look beyond ourselves. And remember, we're all neighbors. We are all members of one family the human family.”

RELATED: Cuyahoga County to request refrigerated trucks to handle surge of COVID deaths, executive says