CLEVELAND — Ohio hit a tragic milestone Tuesday, with a now-reported 4,044 deaths due to COVID-19.
Those deaths occurred in the second and third quarters of the year, and we still have cold and flu season to get through.
"We know what we need to do to keep people from dying from this," Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital infectious disease expert Dr. Amy Edwards says. "It's simple: You wear a mask, you try to stay away from people, you wash your hands."
Edwards fears, though, that people are becoming apathetic to the protocols at the time we need them most.
"We haven't done cold weather months with COVID yet in Ohio, and I dread, I dread this winter," she said. "I'm going to be honest with you."
According to CDC mortality numbers Ohio (most recent from 2017), the top 10 causes of death in the state are as follows:
- Heart disease
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Septicemia are the top ten causes of death.
Not much has changed in the past few years, but with the current death count now over 4,000, COVID-19 is now the seventh leading cause of death, and likely expected to go even higher.
"COVID is on par to rate about 6 or 7 in the causes of death in the state of Ohio," Dr. Kristin Englund, infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic, says. "It could rise, if we're not careful."
"There is no reason an infectious disease should be in the top five causes of death," Edwards adds. "It hasn't been in almost a hundred years."
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1920 influenza/pneumonia, heart disease, and tuberculosis were the top three causes of death. Vaccines managed to knock flu out of the top five, although it's still in the top 10 today.
We can’t depend on a vaccine to fight COVID until we know if it works for the masses. Ohio may be doing better than many other states because of mandates, but this pandemic is far from over.
"A lot depends on us, on what we choose to do to protect ourselves and others," Englund says.
Right now, the entire country may not be doing enough, according to Edwards.
"It's going to be the third leading cause of death in the United States and that is exquisitely tragic," she says.
Following the basic guidelines--wearing a mask, washing your hands and keeping a six-foot distance--is the best way to help limit the spread of the virus. But getting a flu shot can help, too.
"Influenza is way less contagious than COVID is, so these steps that we're taking to prevent the spread of COVID could do a ton to prevent the spread of influenza and make it the best flu season we've ever had if people would just stick with it," Edwards said.
As a pediatric infectious disease expert, Edwards is concerned about COVID-19 combined with other childhood illnesses that will soon appear, such as strep, RSV, croup and flu. She’s already treated a dual infected child.
"The sickest child that I've taken care of with COVID had two viruses: COVID and parainfluenza, or "croup," she remembered. "I've never seen a baby that sick before. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever seen."
A "twindemic" of COVID-19 and a bad flu season could put a dangerous strain on resources.
"We don't want our hospitals filling up with influenza patients while dealing with COVID patients as well it will be overwhelming for our hospital systems,” Englund says, adding, "Plan to keep wearing your mask through 2021, too."