COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in Ohio and nationwide, according to experts. Locally, two Tri-State counties are seeing numbers trend in opposite directions.
In the past two weeks, more people have tested positive in parts of Butler County than anywhere else in the state. Over that same period, Hamilton County saw its number of new coronavirus cases go down.
“When you see the degree of illness that these patients can have it can be heart-wrenching,” Atrium Medical Center President Dr. Keith Bricking said.
He said he knows patience is wearing thin, but he’s imploring people in his community to stay the course as the numbers climb.
“I was actually recently looking at our number of hospitalized COVID positive patients from 30 days ago, and we’ve doubled the number of patients in the hospital with COVID,” Bricking said.
According to data from the Ohio Department of Health, several Butler County ZIP codes were among the top in the state for new COVID cases.
“We’ve also doubled the number of patients that are on a ventilator; we’ve doubled the number of patients that are in our ICU,” Bricking said. “So what we’re seeing is certainly a rise in the community of the number of patients that are positive for COVID, but also that’s resulting in sicker patients that are requiring hospitalization.”
Bricking said many of the new cases he’s seeing are because people are letting their guard down.
“Specifically, people are at work, they take off their masks, they’re in a lunchroom together, they have their mask off for 10-15 minutes, and then all of a sudden the entire team that was in the break room is turning positive,” he said.
Some cases are mild, with others turning severe and more young people are becoming infected.
In Hamilton County, hospitalization is also a major concern, but there are currently fewer new COVID cases overall than in weeks past.
“For over a week now, our reproductive number has been at one or just below one,” Hamilton County Public Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said, referencing the average number of people who become infected after contact with a positive case.
"Today, we are at 0.97 for Hamilton County and 1.0 for the region," he said.
Local health leaders made it clear they aren’t using this progress as an excuse to let up in the battle against the virus.
“We have been trying to develop some plans and working with our physicians on the medical staff of when do we turn off services or when do we slow down services, what that looks like and how we’re going to implement it. But we have not yet limited any offerings at the hospital at this time,” Bricking said.
He said his team is staying vigilant and fighting to avoid a worst-case scenario.
Health experts from both counties said it’s still to early to determine what kind of effect Thanksgiving gatherings will have on the number of positive tests, but are preparing for a tough few weeks ahead.