Area health centers see highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since pandemic started, but still have beds to spare

Posted at 11:05 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-10 10:40:19-04

Hamilton, Butler and Clermont counties are all now marked "Level 3/red" on Governor Mike DeWine’s Public Health Advisory Alert System scale for the coronavirus pandemic. A part of the criteria that makes up the levels are hospital and ICU capacity.

Hospitals in the Tri-State are currently seeing the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic started. They’re operating at 80% capacity or a little higher, which is close to standard procedure.

“Hamilton County you’ll see has moved up,” DeWine said in his Thursday news conference. “It was red. It is now on what we call the watch list.”

Ohio Public Health Advisory System July 9.png
Ohio Public Health Advisory System on July 9, 2020.

One reason Hamilton County now finds itself on the verge of a "Level 4/purple" public emergency is the regional usage of ICU beds. More than 80% of the ICU beds have been filled for five of the last seven days – which is something that also affects Butler and Clermont Counties.

“The number of hospital beds occupied for COVID-19 continues to be on the rise,” Butler County General Health District Commissioner Jennifer Bailer said in a Wednesday news conference. “The number of ICU beds continues to rise. But, we are not spiking. We’re not overwhelming our hospital system at this point in time.”

If nothing changes going forward, it could be a few weeks or months before hospitals get overcrowded, according to Tri-Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kevin Joseph.

“It’s concerning that if the admissions in COVID keep going up, that we will get to an overcapacity situation,” he said.

The Health Collaborative, which helps coordinate the response to COVID-19 across Southwest Ohio, said hospitals have plenty of space to accommodate an increase in both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

“We really pay attention to the ICU occupancy rates and we’re very comfortable there right now and are still lower than what we were in late March, early April, even though our overall hospitalizations for COVID are greater,” said Tiffany Mattingly, senior director, clinical initiatives and quality improvement with The Health Collaborative.

A major point DeWine, health officials and hospitals agree on in this situation is the need to wear masks in public, even if counties in the area drop down on that public emergency list. They said that is crucial to getting the spread of the coronavirus under control.

DeWine said what the public does in the next 30 days will determine what activities we might be allowed to do in the fall.