Health commissioner: Southwest Ohio seeing highest-ever number of COVID-19 hospitalizations

Posted at 12:44 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 17:45:00-04

The number of regional hospitalizations for COVID-19 is higher than ever before, Hamilton county administrative and health officials said Wednesday.

Data indicates 214 people in the eight-county region comprised of Butler, Hamilton, Clermont, Warren, Clinton, Highland, Brown and Adams counties were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to Ohio Department of Health data.

Of those people hospitalized, 49 are in Intensive Care Unit beds and 28 are on ventilators.

Dr. Richard Lofgren, president and CEO of UC Health, said the number of COVID-19 cases in the region is multiplying at a never-before-seen rate. Positive cases are doubling every 10 to 14 days.

“This isn’t just a matter of testing more, or finding asymptomatics," Lofgren said. "These are translating into more hospitalizations."

Regional hospitalizations have jumped from about 90 in early October to 214 by Oct. 20, according to Lofgren.

Lofgren said the real evidence of the burden of the disease in the community lies in the number of hospitalizations.

“This rather rapid uptick in the last two weeks is of concern, there’s no question," Lofgren said. "The idea that we are seeing more hospitalizations than we’ve ever seen in the course of this pandemic has our full attention."

Additionally, Lofgren said cases are more widespread in the community and are no longer concentrated in the urban core or other areas with high population density. This suggests the virus is being transmitted more frequently through community spread — small, hard-to-trace interactions between individuals, as opposed to within a workplace or single large gathering — and people are starting to let their guards down.

Lofgren said very simple things, such as masking properly when indoors, can help tamp down the spread of the virus.

Despite the uptick, health systems are more prepared now than at the start of the pandemic, Lofgren said. Medical professionals now have adequate PPE, and there are more contact tracers at the county level.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 16,234 positive cases of COVID-19 in Hamilton County, up 1,327 from the same time last week, according to Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus.

Driehaus cautioned that, as social activities move indoors for the winter, the worst may still be ahead.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said his team of contact tracers had one of its busiest weekends, with 175 positive cases on Friday alone.

Kesterman reiterated, as he did in the county’s briefing last week, that the virus is being spread via informal gatherings with family and friends.

How are people getting COVID-19?

About 3,081 Hamilton County residents diagnosed with COVID-19 answered the question: "Have you attended a large gathering?"

Of those people, about 1,660 (53%) said yes.

About 1,660 people who tested positive for COVID-19 said they had been to a large gathering. These are the types of gatherings people reported attending.

These are the types of activities they attended:

  • Work
  • Shopping
  • Eating out
  • Parties with friends
  • Vacations
  • Sporting events
  • Bar/nightclubs
  • Weddings
  • Religious ceremonies
  • Amusement parks
  • Protests

This data does not suggest these people got COVID-19 from these locations, Kesterman said. Those are simply locations they visited within 14 days of their infection.