Montgomery County COVID-19 deaths rise in July

Overall for the state, Ohio coronavirus deaths hadn't risen on pace with the rise new cases hospitalizations.

Forty-nine people from Montgomery County died in July from COVID-19.

Though the county data is preliminary and excludes five people whose date of death is unknown, this count is a significant increase from 12 people who died reported in June and three in May in the county.

A Dayton Daily News examination of Ohio health data found there have been 74 Montgomery County COVID-19 deaths total since the start of the pandemic and at least 30 of those deaths have been people who live in long-term care, such as a nursing home.

The rate of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths varies from county to county in Ohio, sometimes significantly. Overall for Ohio, deaths haven’t surged in step with the July surge in positive tests and hospitalizations.

Dr. Roberto Colón, vice president of quality and safety for Premier Health, said as a health system, they saw a similar trend as Ohio as a whole and did not see mortality rise at the same rate as they saw cases rise. The health system, however, treats people from many counties and people don’t always go to the hospital in the same county where they live.

In Greene County, two people died from COVID-19 in July adding up to 11 deaths since the start of the pandemic. In Miami County, six people died in July as part of 37 deaths since the start of the pandemic. In Warren County, 12 people died in July as part of 35 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The state has so far recorded 535 Ohioans who died from COVID-19 during July as part of the 3,539 who have died since the start of the pandemic.

A lag between infection and death, a younger population getting sick, and improvements in treatment could all be potentially behind the lower death rate in Ohio in July from the novel coronavirus.

Colón said something to be cautious about is that deaths are reported on a lag behind new cases and hospitalizations because many deaths from COVID-19 happen after the person has been sick for a while and their disease continued to progress. Hospitalizations lag behind a rise in spread and new cases and deaths lag behind rises in hospitalizations.

“So we have to be very careful when we first see the spikes in new cases to not jump to conclusions because the deaths haven’t yet risen,” Colón said.

However, he said with the most recent spikes, although there were some bumps in the number of deaths, he didn’t see deaths rise at the same rate as the number of hospitalizations and that’s been for several weeks.

Colón said he’s seen a gradual but steady decline in the median age of new cases.

“While we may be seeing some of these younger individuals coming into the hospital, they are fortunately less likely to have a fatal outcome,” Colón said.

Colón said people are more aware of COVID-19 and there seems to be less fear of coming into the hospital a few months ago, so people are seeking needed hospital care earlier, which helps.

“And we also have to recognize we have made significant strides in how we are managing patients with COVID-19,” he said.

This ranges from medications like the antiviral remdesivir, to earlier management, to learning more about caring for those with the disease such as turning people on their stomachs to help them breath more efficiently when they already require oxygen support.

“There are a lot of these things coming together that are really affecting in a positive way the outcomes of patients not just in Ohio but in facilities in the U.S,” Colón said.

Ohio has also in general been testing and isolating more people, and the wider net means more people getting a positive test who might never get seriously ill.

“We are doing a better job with the accessibility to the tests so we are finding more people who have very mild disease or in some cases even asymptomatic disease,” Colón said.

Dr. Glen Solomon, chairman of the department of internal medicine at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine, said back in March when officials talked about how the longer they could delay and slow the spread, the goal was to help the health system have the capacity to respond and the time to get better at treating and responding.

“The hospitals are better prepared to care for sicker patients. We have more personal protective equipment ... So by being very aggressive early that’s probably a big part of the reason why we are in the situation now,” Solomon said. “Everyone hates dealing with the pandemic and we’re all tired of all the masks and the social distancing and the businesses that are closed, but what you’re seeing is the result of all the things we’ve done.”

Ohio Department of Health reports out of the 3,539 who have died from COVID-19, the median age is 80. About 52% of everyone in Ohio who has died so far has been 80 or older, 25% have been in their 70s, 14% in their 60s, 6% in their 50s, 2% in their 40s, and 1% in their 30s. Twelve Ohioans in their 20s have died and two Ohioans 19 years old or younger have died since the start of the pandemic.

Out of those who died, 77% have been white, 19% Black, 1% multi-racial, 1% Asian, 1% unknown, and 1% another race. Since the state started tracking April 15, preliminary data shows 1,966 of those who died from COVID-19 in Ohio were living in long term care -- nursing homes, assisted living facilities and group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Those sick enough to need hospital care have skewed younger, with a median age of those hospitalized in Ohio as 63 years old and about 25% of those hospitalized under the age of 50, out of the 10,992 hospitalized since the start of the pandemic.

While early to call it a trend, there are some indications of preventative measures working and spread starting to slow locally and in Ohio as a whole. Monday, the state reported three days in a row with fewer than 1,000 new cases, which is the first time new cases have dipped that low since early July.

“That’s very reassuring and it really does mirror what we’re seeing here, we’re starting to come out of the peak of new cases,” Colón said.

Ohio COVID-19 deaths by the numbers

80: Median age

52%: 80 or older

25%: Age in 70s

14%: Age in 60s

14: Age 30 or below

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