COLUMBUS, Ohio — Since the very first cases of COVID-19, there has been one key indicator of how severe the current situation is: hospitalizations.
In Ohio, we're back over the thousand patient mark for the first time in months.
John Palmer from the Ohio Hospital Association still tracks those hospitalization numbers daily. He said what he’s seen with the new variant in recent weeks, “has really been concerning.”
He pointed to a similar, steady increase at this same time one year ago.
According to data from the Ohio Hospital Association dashboard, COVID hospitalizations started to increase after the Fourth of July holiday last summer. By the end of September, that wave peaked. Then COVID sent more Ohioans to the hospital weeks later. By the new year, the numbers had climbed to a record high.
“This is a virus that is in it for the long game,” said Palmer.
And for that reason, Palmer said communication remains constant between Ohio’s different hospital zones.
"We're structured very similar to what we have been throughout the pandemic when it comes to coordinating capacity supplies, resources, and that standpoint, and so that network remains intact and utilized, as we see where this new variant can take us in the coming weeks,” he said.
This new variant meaning, the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron.
Tracking the daily hospitalizations is important, Palmer said, because the numbers can identify trends to help hospitals prepare for capacity concerns. He explained when there is a surge, it’s the staffing that limits capacity, not the number of beds available. And, the staffing levels have not recovered here in Ohio.
“We don't want to repeat a surge that we saw, most recently with the Delta and Omicron variants, that created significant staffing challenges for us. And frankly, it's, it's still resonating today in our hospitals."
Last December, Governor Mike DeWine deployed members of the Ohio National Guard to aid in the staffing issues faced by many hospitals related to the pandemic.