Local COVID-19 hospital cases rising again after holidays

The number of COVID-19 patients at hospitals started to improve toward the end of December, but the level of people sick enough to be hospitalized remains high and now local physicians are reporting a post-holiday increase in cases.

Dr. Roberto Colón, associate chief medical officer, Miami Valley Hospital, said toward the end of December they saw a dip in the number of cases that were hospitalized “which was very, very encouraging.” However, cases are trending up again after the holidays locally and statewide.

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The number of patients with the virus can vary tremendously day-to-day, Colón said. The Dayton hospital saw about a 20% increase in the number of COVID-19 patients over the weekend, though that has started to decline again over the last 24 hours.

“Unfortunately, where we are in the midst of right now is this rise again in the number of hospitalized cases,” Colón said.

In the region, about 1 in 5 inpatients have COVID-19, and about 1 in 4 ICU patients in the region are COVID-19 positive, according to the Ohio Hospital Association. That’s 3% fewer hospitalized COVID-19 patients than three weeks ago in the region. However, those numbers have also climbed back up 8% compared to one week before.

For the week of Dec. 25 to Dec. 31, Miami Valley Hospital reported on average 16% of adult inpatient beds in use by COVID-19 patients, or about 174 COVID-19 patients a day. Kettering Medical Center reported on average 19% of inpatients with COVID-19 for that week, or about 79 patients a day. West Chester Hospital reported on average 49% of adult inpatient beds used by COVID patients for that week, or about 78 COVID-19 inpatients a day. Local hospitals have also surged the total number of beds in recent months.

Capacity can be stretched at a hospital even if it is not listed as full or nearly full in the data. Some beds and units are designed for and used by other patients who are also still coming in, like psych or maternity or emergencies, and beds can’t all be used for COVID-19 patients.

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Also, a licensed bed can’t be used by a patient if there aren’t enough staff to care for that patient, and hospital leaders have continued to say that they are struggling to maintain enough staff as people get sick in the community or have to quarantine.

“We still have the the usual patients that will come into the hospital, and you throw into the mix a lot of the challenges with clinical staff that’s already been stretched and you can get into where the hospitals are at very busy time right now,” Colón said.

Dr. Patrick Lytle, VP of clinical outcomes for the Kettering Health Network, said they slowly started to see a drop right around Christmas.

“We are starting to see a pick up and we do expect a pickup in cases probably for the next couple of weeks,” Lytle.

Lytle said one model by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts cases starting to peak around Jan. 21.

Colón said with the December holidays, it’s not just one day of gathering but an entire month of various celebrations and extended breaks for some, which can set up for a rise in cases.

“With Thanksgiving, it was a very defined day during that week. This is really a more prolonged period of time,” he said.

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Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer with Ohio Department of Health, there are some concerning signs the last few days. The rate of testing coming back positive is climbing, and hospitalizations across the state had dropped but have now jumped back up.

“As we press forward with vaccinations, we need to remember we have a lot of road ahead and we can’t forget COVID safety,” Vanderhoff said.

Lytle said they probably are not going to know the effect of the vaccine for a few months. “But we’re all praying that really puts a huge dent in this disease,” he said.

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