With COVID-19 cases on the rise nationally and in the state of Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine and his staff held a press conference Monday afternoon to address a number of concerns, including the increased numbers and allowing nursing homes to conduct outdoor visitation later this month.
“Last week was a significant week,” said DeWine, referring to the rise in cases and hospitalizations. “These are numbers of who is occupying these (hospital) beds. A concern long term is having requisite space. We keep track of how many go in each day, but we also keep track of how many are in the hospital and what the hospital capacity is.”
Last week was the first week of increasing COVID-19 hospital utilization in Ohio after over two months of decreasing utilization since late April. From June 21, 2020, to June 27, 2020, Ohio had approximately 500 to 550 total COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide. This week, as of Monday, there are approximately 650 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide.
In comparison, the number of standard hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 positive patients had peaked in late April and early May at about 1,000 and reached a low of 513 on June 20.
“Thankfully, ICU and ventilator utilization at the state level is still holding steady, but we are seeing increases in some areas of the state, such as in the Cleveland, Dayton, and Cincinnati areas,” said Governor DeWine on Monday. “In other regions of the state, COVID-19 hospital occupancy had been declining but now appears to have leveled off.”
Although COVID-19 utilization in hospitals is increasing, there was still adequate overall capacity available across the state as of Monday. No region had, as of Monday, reached the concern threshold of 80 percent overall utilization for ICU beds, however lessons of recent history in NYC, Houston, and Arizona indicate that this can quickly change.
Governor DeWine also explained that the increase in positive COVID-19 cases is not fully due to Ohio’s increase in testing.
“Ohio’s positivity rate has increased slightly as our testing totals have increased,” said DeWine. “If the spread of this virus remained at a low level, more testing should show a lower positivity. The increase of our positivity rate, even as we are doing more testing, means that we are likely picking up signs of broader community spread.”
Initially, DeWine said the state was running between four to six percent positivity rate. Officials would like to see that number go down.
He also addressed Hamilton County (Cincinnati area) and Montgomery County (Dayton area). Both locations have seen a large increase in cases.
“To make sure we have enough hospital and ICU beds to treat everyone who needs care, including those who need emergency surgery, are in a car crash, or are suffering from a stroke, we need the help of all Ohioans,” said Governor DeWine. “I’m asking everyone, especially those in Hamilton, Montgomery, and surrounding counties, to redouble their efforts to social distance, wear a mask in public, and follow good hand-washing protocols.”
Governor DeWine announced that he is extending existing health orders through this week as his administration finalizes vital plans to help local schools safely reopen, as well as plans to keep Ohioans healthy and safe.
“These plans will take us into the next phase, a distinct and different phase of continuing to keep Ohio open as we head into the second half of 2020,” said Governor DeWine.
“We are in the phase of learning to live with the coronavirus. We are extending these health orders that we have right now for a few more days until we have fully developed the plan. No one should speculate or read anything into that.”
On July 20, 2020, Ohio will be opening the doors to outdoor nursing home visitations, provided certain safety standards are met.
According to the governor’s office, when assessing their readiness to permit outdoor visitation, nursing homes should consider: case status in the surrounding community; case status in the nursing home; staffing levels; access to adequate testing for residents and staff; personal protective equipment supplies; and local hospital capacity.
“Some of the most troubling and gut-wrenching things during this coronavirus come when I hear from families with someone in the nursing home because they are not able to visit them. We put the order in when we started this to try to save lives in our nursing homes by cutting down on visits and people going into nursing homes,” said DeWine.
“My job as governor is to protect the most vulnerable among us putting measures in place to keep people safe from the virus. It also means protecting those things that add value to life. Visits by family members to nursing homes is certainly something that adds value to life.”
“The decision to move forward with outdoor visitation considered requests from families and residents and the impact on the quality of life that a prolonged loss of connection can have on an individual,” according to the governor’s office. “The plan was made in consultation with advocates and providers in the aging and development disabilities communities. Guidelines for visitation were jointly developed by the Academy for Senior Health Sciences, Leading Age Ohio, the Ohio Assisted Living Association, the Ohio Health Care Association, and the Ohio Medical Directors Association.”
DeWine said the state is in the process of testing every nursing home with the Ohio National Guard assisting in that task. All facilities will be tested before re-opening and the staff will continue to be tested.
“We are confident that our approach provides each facility the flexibility needed to assess their readiness to safely facilitate outdoor visitation and to do so in a transparent way that keeps residents and families informed,” said Governor DeWine.
The order and related guidance will be made available at coronavirus.ohio.gov . Questions may also be directed to the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, an office within the Ohio Department of Aging, at 1-800-282-1206.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 51,789 COVID-19 cases in Ohio, including 48,222 confirmed cases and 3,567 probable COVID cases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded case definition.
As of Tuesday, there have been 2,863 COVID-19 deaths in the state, including 2,615 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 248 probable COVID-19 deaths according to the CDC expanded death definition. A total of 7,839 people had been hospitalized, including 1,994 admissions to intensive care units. Total reported cases, total reported deaths, total reported hospitalizations, and total reported intensive care unit admissions in Ohio were all significantly above the past 21-day average on Tuesday. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov
For Pike County, as shared by the Pike County General Health District on Tuesday, June 30, there have been 20 cases of COVID-19 in the county, including 11 active cases. The cases include 15 confirmed cases and 5 probable cases.
One individual in the county was reported as hospitalized (three hospitalizations were reported by the Pike health district over the weekend) as of Tuesday. The Ohio Department of Health shows Pike County’s cumulative hospitalization count as four individuals.
The age range of Pike’s cases has expanded from 23 to 72, and cases include 11 females and nine males. The Pike County Health District reported seven pending COVID-19 tests in the county as of Tuesday, but they stated that the county’s testing numbers will go up dramatically this week as the National Guard is testing the county’s nursing homes.
Ohio is offering free COVID-19 testing for all residents at pop-up testing sites across Ohio. Those can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov
“We are concerned. We need more people to wear masks,” said DeWine. “The most important thing is what individual Ohioans do. If we want to go out and live our lives, the mask is a symbol of freedom. If we go out in public and see 70 to 80 percent of people wearing a mask, these numbers are going to get better. For fourth of July, wear a mask.”
Video of Monday’s full update, including versions with foreign language translation, can be viewed on the Ohio Channel’s YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCporaXCeaOJgZKz7y3C0zbg
For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, including tips for prevention of the disease and slowing its spread, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
More detailed information on the Responsible RestartOhio plan can be found at www.coronavirus.ohio.gov/ResponsibleRestartOhio