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Doctors warn of inundated hospitals, staff as virus spreads

By FARNOUSH AMIRI Report for America/Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Health officials across Ohio warned of a dark winter, with limited intensive care unit beds if the new surge in coronavirus cases is not curbed in the next few weeks.

Gov. Mike DeWine appointed doctors to lead three zones across the state during a briefing Monday, in an attempt to combat the spread of the virus and maintain hospitals’ ability to respond to the pandemic in the coming weeks.

“The capacity issues we face now are different from what we experienced in the spring,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, who was appointed chief medical officer at the Ohio Department of Health by DeWine on Thursday. “What we are seeing now is an increasing demand on our staff.”

Vanderhoff said the state has adequate personal protection equipment and testing capabilities, but warns that medical professionals are starting to become inundated with the number of hospitalized virus patients and soon will be unable to care for acutely ill, non-virus patients.

The three doctors representing the state’s largest hospital systems, including Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and Cleveland Clinic, were optimistic about Monday’s news of a Pfizer vaccine with a 90% effective rate.

But the officials warned that people must not “let their guard down,” as the nation awaits the vaccine’s release.

“The end looks like it’s in sight,” Dr. Robert Wyllie, of Cleveland Clinic, said during the briefing. “We were hoping for a vaccine but now is the time to continue wearing a mask and social distance.”

In the past week, 1 out of every 373.8 Ohio residents tested positive for COVID-19.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 2,332.57 new cases per day on Oct. 25 to 4,466.86 new cases per day on Nov. 8, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

The Health Department on Monday reported 4,706 probable and confirmed cases. Ohio has reported more than 250,000 probable and confirmed cases to date, including 5,524 deaths.

“I can’t imagine what January will look like if people do not take this into their own hands,” Wyllie said.

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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.