UC Health CEO: About 1 in 4 people in region’s hospitals have COVID-19

Posted at 12:27 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 12:58:56-05

CINCINNATI — A growing number of patients in Cincinnati-area hospitals have COVID-19, which is putting stress on intensive care units and threatening hospital capacity overall, according to UC Health president and CEO Dr. Richard Lofgren.

The southwest Ohio region — which comprises Hamilton, Butler, Warren, Clermont, Clinton, Highland, Brown and Adams counties — has seen an almost 700% increase in hospitalizations over the last 60 days, Lofgren said.

Fewer than 100 people were in regional hospitals with COVID-19 at the end of September. On Wednesday, Lofgren said that number stood at more than 750.

Two months ago, about one in 30 people in the region’s hospitals had COVID-19. Now, about 1 in 4 people in hospitals have the virus, Lofgren said.

“Sixty days ago … a very small percentage of the people in the hospital were actually there because of COVID-19,” Lofgren said. “Now, it’s quickly becoming about a quarter, certainly 20 to 25%.”

Lofgren said these percentages vary. Critical care units are most impacted; most intensive care units in the region are stressed, Lofgren said.

Although hospitalizations continue to increase, the supply chain for personal protective equipment and ventilators is strong. Hospitals' real resource crisis is a lack of available frontline workers.

“For us, the issue that really pushes us and our ability to respond is really the staff," Lofgren said. "And even in this surge, that we’ve been able to accommodate, we’re asking people, and nurses, and other physicians and health care workers to work overtime or double shifts and to sort of stretch themselves, and obviously in some cases that’s not sustainable."

Lofgren said bringing other health care workers in from around the country is not a viable option as it was in the spring, as multiple cities across the country are experiencing the same surge.

Receiving COVID-19 vaccine at local level

Lofgren said the region is poised to receive its first batch of vaccines as early as mid-December. Officials have identified 10 sites across Ohio to begin vaccinating health care workers.

The goal is to distribute some of the vaccine in anticipation that Emergency Use Authorization will begin in the middle of the month, according to Lofgren.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said the county is working with the county’s Emergency Management Agency to roll out the vaccine locally.

The county has purchased enough refrigeration to hold 65,000 doses of the vaccine, and Kesterman said they’re close to having another unit installed that can hold twice that amount.

The Ohio Department of Health is using flu vaccines to test how they will distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, WHIO reported.

“The Ohio Department of Health’s Vaccine Preparedness Office has been diligently preparing for the arrival of the vaccine for months, distributing adult influenza vaccine with the same process that will be used to distribute the COVID-19 as a test exercise,” ODH said in a statement.

Gov. Mike DeWine said on Nov. 24 that he expected about 30,000 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in Ohio "around Dec. 15," with another batch from Moderna arriving about a week later.

DeWine plans to discuss Ohio's vaccine roll-out plan in this briefing on Thursday afternoon.

WHIO is a media partner of WCPO.