Hamilton County health director: Hospitals are getting too full to handle a Christmas surge

If you traveled for Thanksgiving, 'don't do it again'
Posted at 11:22 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 10:24:52-05

Two weeks after Thanksgiving, when over a million Americans traveled despite CDC pleas to stay home, hospitals in Ohio and Northern Kentucky are filling up. Christmas is coming. And Hamilton County Public Health director Dr. Steve Feagins, who spent his own Thanksgiving Zooming with his family, is appealing to the public again.

“For those of you who chose to stay home, stay in small groups, thank you,” he said Tuesday night. “Do it again. For those of you who did travel, please don’t do it again.”

Ohio recorded 657 new hospitalizations on Tuesday; even subtracting the 100 processed as part of a weeks-long backlog, it’s an unusually high number. In Northern Kentucky’s Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, nearly 90% of all hospital beds already have an occupant.

If the holiday season continues to produce cases, hospitalizations and critically ill patients at the current rate, the health system could buckle under their weight.

And full-up hospitals affect more than COVID-19 patients, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in his Tuesday news conference.

“If we fill up a hospital with a lot of COVID patients and the others that need help and someone has a heart attack, there’s not a bed for them. Their odds of surviving are less,” he said.

The resource crisis is a personnel crisis, too, Feagins emphasized. He and his colleagues in healthcare professions have been running a nonstop marathon since March. They are burnt out, he said.

“I think it’s more emotionally exhausting than it is physically,” he said. “(We see) people not having a visitor, people who are at the end of life, and we are working very hard to get one, maybe two, family members in for 15 minutes at most. That’s emotionally exhausting.”

Feagins added that he recognizes the emotional exhaustion of non-healthcare workers, too. It's everywhere.

Essential workers and some high-risk groups, including residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, will receive their first vaccinations before the end of the year. It will be the start of a return to real life, Feagins said. Americans just need to find the strength to hang on until then.

“One more holiday to go,” he said. “2021 is just around the corner. The vaccine is coming. We’ve seen some light beginning, but that tunnel’s not through yet.”