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Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Local hospitals feeling strain

By Leslie Gartrell

CELINA - Regional hospitals are getting more patients, and experiencing increased wait times and a strain on the entire health care system as local COVID-19 cases continue to surge, area health officials say.

Mercer County health officials on a call with community members, education officials, religious leaders, elected officials and others on Friday said the county has had an incidence rate of 1,143 cases new cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks. They also reported two more Mercer County residents have died from COVID-19.

The rate of new cases has impacted the health department's ability to keep up, district administrator Jason Menchhofer said during the call. By noon on Friday, the district had 145 new cases that hadn't been assigned to staff for case interviews.

Mindy Kremer, vice president of development, marketing and community relations at Mercer Health, on the call said the hospital had 24 patients in the hospital, 19 of whom are COVID-19 positive. One patient has both COVID-19 and the flu, she said, which is the first person afflicted with both that hospital staff had seen.

Other regional hospitals are seeing an unprecedented increase in new cases, she said. Staff also have seen huge volumes of people at the COVID-19 testing station in Celina, averaging about 100 a day.

The emergency department has been extremely overwhelmed recently, she said. While staff hadn't needed to transport patients from the emergency department frequently, Kremer said they soon may need to prepare the community for wait times.

On a recent busy day, nine people had to wait in their cars, the ambulance bay was full and every room in the emergency department was full, Kremer said. Employees are exploring using other areas that traditionally aren't used for patient care, she added.

Mercer Health CEO Lisa Klenke said although transporting COVID patients hasn't been an issue, prolonged wait times are becoming more frequent. One patient on Thursday had an eight-hour wait to be transported to another hospital, she said.

The hospital also doesn't have the same employee flexibility as it did during the first shutdown when elective procedures were put on hold, Klenke said.

Staff who traditionally would have worked in elective surgeries could be diverted to work with COVID-19 patients during the shutdown. However, with elective procedures now taking place that's no longer an option.

Klenke also added another difference between the spring shutdown and the current situation is the hospital typically has more activity during the fall and winter as the flu and other viruses and bacteria circulate.

"The impact is going to be greater" now compared with the surges seen in the spring, she said.

Re-emphasizing the outbreak's severity, the Mercer County Health District on Friday reported that two more Mercer County residents have died from COVID-19, raising the county's toll to 34, according to a social media post.

The post also reported 52 new cases, raising the county's total to 2,187 cases.

Officials also reported 305 probable cases, 28 hospitalizations, 1,689 people who have recovered, 34 deaths and two probable deaths from COVID-19. Of the 2,187 confirmed cases, 454 are active.

The breakdown of total cases by community is Celina, 953; Coldwater, 392; St. Henry, 260; Fort Recovery, 230; Maria Stein, 128; Rockford, 118; Mendon, 37; Chickasaw, 33; Burkettsville, 15; Montezuma, six; and the Willshire area, three, according to the district's online COVID-19 dashboard.

An Auglaize County Health Department news release reported 57 new confirmed cases, raising that county's total to 1,583.

Officials also reported 326 probable cases, 99 total hospitalizations, 860 people who have recovered and 19 deaths due to COVID-19.

Caitlin Decker, health department public information officer, said for the time being the department will not report the number of new cases due to the high volume leaving staff unable to update the information in a timely manner.

The breakdown of total cases by community is Wapakoneta, 644; St. Marys, 577; Minster, 290; New Bremen, 194; Cridersville, 85; Waynesfield, 51; New Knoxville, 35; Spencerville, seven; Buckland, six; the Lima area, four; the Botkins area, four; St. Johns, four; Uniopolis, three; New Hampshire, two; the Lakeview area, two; and the Mendon area, one.

As of Friday night, the Ohio Department of Health reported 282,528 confirmed and probable cases in the state, an increase of 8,071 new cases from Thursday. ODH also reported 21,856 hospitalizations and 5,700 confirmed and probable deaths from COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases/deaths:

There were 52 new cases in Mercer County. Auglaize had 57.

Ohio cases 282,528
Ohio deaths 5,700
Mercer County cases 2,187
Mercer County deaths 34
Auglaize County cases 1,583
Auglaize County deaths 19
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