The Columbus Dispatch

Doctors, nurses plea for help as tragedies unfold at hospitals

- Amelia Robinson and Max Filby Columbus Dispatch USA TODAY NETWORK

Local doctors, nurses and hospital officials are bracing for what might be among the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Andy Thomas, chief clinical officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Center, said with family and friends celebratin­g the season together, a post-christmas uptick in COVID-19 cases is inevitable in Columbus.

“We’re seeing … case numbers in the northeast Ohio area that are nine to 10 times higher than what they were just six weeks ago. We are lucky right now in Columbus that we are not seeing those same numbers, but we expect in the next two to three weeks that we will,” Thomas said during the Dispatch presents Columbus Conversati­on,“an Urgent Appeal for Help Stopping the COVID-19 Surge.”

The virtual event was hosted by Dispatch Opinion and Community Engagement Editor Amelia Robinson, and Dispatch health and medicine reporter Max Filby, with help from the Central Ohio Hospital Council.

The Columbus Conversati­ons series seeks to find solutions to issues of importance to this community.

Videos of the discussion can be viewedon the Dispatch website at­nversation­covid or on its Facebook page and Youtube channels.

Excerpts of the discussion, the result of a partnershi­p with The Columbus Foundation, are below.

What should people do to stop the surge?

DR. ANDY THOMAS – Chief clinical officer, Ohio State University Wexner Center

While the vaccine effectiven­ess in terms of people getting the infection is down a little bit from the other variants of the virus … the vaccine is still very protective for severe disease, so the risk of getting pneumonia, the risk of needing to be in the hospital – or God forbid, on a ventilator – is still significan­tly decreased.

I think the contagious nature of this new Omicron variant is significan­tly higher than the Delta variant

which was significan­tly higher than previous versions of the virus. This is a wake-up call that it’s time to get vaccinated if you’re not vaccinated, get your booster if you haven’t and you’re eligible, and please, when you’re in a public setting – in a store, at your child’s basketball game, whatever it is – please, wear a mask. It’s really important.

DR. JOSEPH GASTALDO, system medical director of infectious diseases, Ohiohealth

The CDC once a week leaves a variant report that’s available to the public, it’s called the Nowcast.

In the Midwest, 92 percent of what we are seeing is the Omicron variant.the Omicron variant is now king of the mountain as far as how contagious it is. Delta, in the public, doubled every seven days. With the Omicron variant, it’s doubling in the public every two to three days.

We’re all familiar with the tools we have like masking, paying attention to the ventilatio­n of air. What’s different this year is, obviously, vaccines. Vaccines are still performing well with what they were intended to do against Omicron, to mitigate or prevent or really give a great layer of protection against severe disease.

We also need to be on point for home testing. A home test is a snapshot in time to let you know if you are contagious with the virus that causes COVID-19. Home antigen testing will detect the Omicron variant.

How is the virus impacting children?

DR. RUSTIN MORSE – chief medical officer, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

We’re fortunate that this disease is not hitting the children as hard on the physical health perspectiv­e, but of the children who are hospitaliz­ed and the children who are in the ICU, they are all unvaccinat­ed – for those who are eligible to be vaccinated. It is a very safe vaccine. It’s been tested and proven to be safe in children. We’re not seeing adverse reactions from it, no more than we would with any other vaccines.

I think it’s time to move past this questionin­g the efficacy and the trust of the vaccine and do your part to keep yourself healthy and especially your children, because we don’t want to see children getting hurt in this fire.

What is the situation in hospitals?

BRUCE WHITE, chief executive officer, Knox Community Hospital

Coming from a small community hospital’s perspectiv­e, I’d just share some numbers. Our hospital has 69 beds, inpatient beds. (As of Dec. 21), 19 of those were filled with Covid-positive patients, 18 of them were unvaccinat­ed.

Only one was what people refer to as a breakthrou­gh case, so I think in addition to what has already been said about the safeness, the efficacy and so on, I think it’s been proven, at least in our small hospital, that the people who are coming in with COVID are the unvaccinat­ed, and they’re requiring that higher level of care that an inpatient stay requires.

So while I can sympathize and empathize with people’s hesitancy to a certain degree, I would say keep an open mind. Keep trying to learn. Please don’t make a decision from which you say, ‘I’m never going to change,’ because new informatio­n is coming around all the day.

JERRY MANSFIELD, chief nursing officer, Mount Carmel Hospital

Right now, our COVID numbers are hovering around over 130 per day. We’ve seen a gradual increase since October and it’s just been a steady incline. Patients in the ICU ... around 20% or so are vaccinated, and in the general care areas, about 26%. So ... while (being) vaccinated may not prevent a hospitaliz­ation, it certainly can mitigate the seriousnes­s of it.

This current condition of where we are right now – while it is less numbers than we were at our last surge last year — we have every indication to know that’s going to increase over the next four to six weeks here in central Ohio.

 ?? ?? Dr. Andy Thomas, chief clinical officer, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Dr. Andy Thomas, chief clinical officer, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
 ?? ?? Dr. Rustin Morse has been named Nationwide Children's Hospital chief medical officer.
Dr. Rustin Morse has been named Nationwide Children's Hospital chief medical officer.
 ?? ?? Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, medical director of infectious diseases for Ohiohealth
Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, medical director of infectious diseases for Ohiohealth
 ?? ?? Bruce White, chief executive officer, Knox Community Hospital
Bruce White, chief executive officer, Knox Community Hospital
 ?? ?? Jerry Mansfield, chief nursing officer, Mount Carmel
Jerry Mansfield, chief nursing officer, Mount Carmel
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