Local hospitals struggling

Warner: ‘We are there. It is starting’

The Times-Gazette

This graphic shows the timeline of reported cases in Highland County from April 1, 2020 to Sept. 15, 2021.

This graphic shows the timeline of reported cases in Highland County from April 1, 2020 to Sept. 15, 2021.

Highland County Health Department graphic

If you don’t read anything else, please read the following, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said in a Wednesday update on the health department’s Facebook page: “Highland District currently (as of about noon) has 13 patients hospitalized for COVID-19. Of these patients, zero are vaccinated. Zero. In total the hospital has around 28 people currently admitted (last updated from (Wednesday) morning, things have probably changed a little).”

Following is the remainder of Warner’s update in its entirety:

Adena Health System reports that out of 68 currently hospitalized patients, 11 are vaccinated and 57 are not. Adena’s ICU currently has five patients, four of which are unvaccinated, one of which is vaccinated.

Vaccines are the most effective way for people to protect themselves from hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Please get vaccinated. This is not a conspiracy, this is not a trick, there are no secret agendas at play here. We just want people to be healthy, and all of the best evidence and science available tells us that vaccination for COVID-19 is the best way to do this.

Case counts and disease data

Our case counts have dropped a little and the stabilized from our high point in late August.

On Sept. 9, the Ohio Department of Health reported Highland County as the second highest case rate for COVID-19 in Ohio, with a 14-day per 100,000 rate of 1,397.1. Our seven day per 100,000 rate is currently 685.8. We are averaging about 49 new COVID-19 cases each day.

We have now reached a cumulative total of 271 hospitalizations as of Sept 14, and increase of 24 since our last update on Sept. 8.

Deaths have increased to 76 cumulative deaths, an increase of four deaths since our update on Sept. 8.

Hospitalizations are really increasing as we start to feel the delayed impact of our recent surge in cases. Adena Healthcare System has just announced a cancellation of elective surgeries so more resources can be assigned to COVID-19 patient care. Highland District is also discussing changes in their operations in response to this surge in cases.

Local health care systems have also been experiencing serious difficulty in transporting patients from our health care facilities to other facilities with ICU and other advanced care capabilities.

Save the ED for emergencies

We have talked a lot lately about reserving the emergency department for true medical emergencies. With the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, there is even less room in our local EDs than usual. If you do not need emergency medical care, then please do not go to the emergency department.

If you are only interested in take home COVID-19 test kits, then go to your local library branch or a Highland County Community Action location. We have handed out over 3,900 of these kits so far in September to our community partners!

ICU capability

ICU capacity is one of our key limiting factors in our health care system. As of 8:30 a.m. this morning, the SW Ohio region had five available COVID-19 ICU beds for the region. Highland District and Adena Greenfield Medical Center do not have ICU units, but find themselves holding on to very seriously ill patients for much longer than usual because they have been unable to transfer then to other facilities.

COVID-19 vaccination effectiveness

The CDC released several reports recently that helped shed light on the effectiveness of vaccines against hospitalization and death from COVID-19, particularly from the Delta variant. One study, which reviewed hospitalizations and deaths between April 4 and July 17, shows some encouraging results. This study compared data from 13 U.S. jurisdictions that routinely compare case surveillance data with immunization status. These jurisdictions included about 25% of the country’s population.

Side note: Unfortunately, Ohio uses two different systems for vaccination data and case/hospitalization data, so it requires manual comparison between these two systems in order to understand overall case vaccination rates. We just don’t have the time locally to do this type of manual comparison. This is a serious shortcoming of our state surveillance system, and can be partly blamed on the fact that most public health surveillance and reporting systems are a decade or so old.

This study found a decrease in overall vaccine effectiveness for Delta, but a continued rate of vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization and death. The final bottom line: After Delta became the most common COVID-19 variant, fully vaccinated people had a reduced risk of infection (five times less likely), hospitalization (10 times less likely), and death (10 times less likely).

Read the full study at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7037e1.htm.

Final thoughts

I have tried in these updates to be calm, rational and transparent. I am not trying to create panic with this one, but I want you to hear this loud and clear without any sugar coating.

We have talked before in our community COVID-19 updates about hospital capacity and how we need to avoid overwhelming our local medical system.

We are there. It is starting.

There are sick patients receiving care in the hallways of our local hospitals. Conversations are happening with retired nurses about coming back to help. There are delays to patient transfer requests to larger hospital facilities. Today I saw hospital leadership putting scrubs on and working side by side with front line medical staff. Extra ventilators are headed into Highland County to help prepare. This is really happening, right now.

I don’t know what the next few weeks will hold for us, but my fear is that it is going to get much worse in our hospitals as the fallout from our recent case increase continues to impact our health care system.

Please do what you can to protect our health care system and our community. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, and stay home if you are sick.

This graphic shows the timeline of reported cases in Highland County from April 1, 2020 to Sept. 15, 2021.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2021/09/web1_covidupdateSEPT16.jpgThis graphic shows the timeline of reported cases in Highland County from April 1, 2020 to Sept. 15, 2021. Highland County Health Department graphic
Warner: ‘We are there. It is starting’

The Times-Gazette