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Ohio's COVID-19 death count passes 7K while hospitalization demographics shift

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Posted at 2:00 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 07:32:37-05

On Monday, Ohio saw its death count from COVID-19 rise above 7,000, with hospitalizations still on the rise throughout the state, Gov. Mike DeWine announced.

DeWine also announced new state test reporting methods, data on schools and information from medical professionals in his regular update on COVID-19 throughout the state.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ohio are now trending younger, said CJ Adams, a nurse manager at Bethesda North Hospital, during the briefing. She said the hospital is now seeing an increase in patients in their 40s through 60s who did not have any previous health conditions and were otherwise completely healthy. This is a sharp contrast to the patient demographics seen in the initial COVID-19 spike earlier this year, when patients were predominantly older and struggling with comorbidities.

"This is very serious," said Adams. "It's definitely different than the first wave -- we're seeing more people, we're seeing capacity issues, we're seeing staffing challenges, and it's not just affecting COVID patients. If there's no beds in the hospital, it doesn't matter if you have COVID or if you're having a heart attack.

"Everyone's being affected because of the capacity that we're seeing."

The updated data from the Ohio Department of Health show 336 new hospitalizations and 40 new ICU admissions in the last 24 hours and 7,022 total deaths from the virus.

DeWine said Monday that it is still too soon to calculate the fallout from family gatherings at Thanksgiving; however, hospital numbers have slowed a bit since last week. Hospitalizations are still "unsustainable," he said, with many hospitals at or near full capacity.

The continued spike in community spread has affected school districts throughout the state as many school leaders have opted to return to hybrid or fully online education systems. As part of an initiative launched earlier this year, districts are now reporting their formats to the Ohio Department of Education so the state can track what schools have chosen to do.

"What we are seeing in the last few weeks is that more and more schools, because of the spread of the coronavirus, more and more schools are having trouble keeping bus drivers driving buses, having a hard time keeping teachers in classrooms and having a hard time with a number of kids who are quarantined," said DeWine.

As of Dec. 3, reports showed that only 29.1% of Ohio schools are still fully in-person five days a week. The majority of schools have opted for a fully remote system.

DeWine also announced a coming change to the way the state will compile and report COVID-19 case numbers, specifically in regard to presumptive cases.

In the spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began accepting the results of antigen tests, a newer form of COVID-19 testing that has emerged, which could be included in case results only if they were also verified through contact tracing, evidence of exposure or symptoms of the disease.

In August, the CDC announced they no longer feel those additional steps toward verification are necessary to include these test results in case reporting.

In Ohio, DeWine said, health department officials have continued to perform the manual tracking to verify antigen test results, and this is contributing to a weeks-long backlog that has delayed the state's ability to report numbers fully.

"Cases have skyrocketed, and we have been averaging 12,500 antigen tests per day, with more positive tests per test," said DeWine.

As a result, ODH and local health departments working to take those extra verification steps are overwhelmed. DeWine said to alleviate this, the state will move to the CDC's new recommendations, as early as Tuesday.

This will, however, result in a large data spike for tomorrow's update, as the state clears the current 12,600 antigen test backlog. After this, DeWine said, the backlog will be cleared, and the state will consistently report antigen test results.

After tomorrow, numbers should return to normal and will include antigen test results without the additional verification steps.

You can watch the full conference in the player below: