Cuyahoga County held a briefing on December 4, updating residents and the media about the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in the county.
“Please think about others,” Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish remarked as he opened the weekly briefing on December 4, discussing the county’s move on to the Ohio Public Health Advisory System’s watchlist to go to the highest level of COVID-19 transmission. He also noted that the numbers are not improving, as cases continue to rise in the county. This has prompted the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas Gilson, to prepare a for refrigerated units to store bodies if the morgue, hospitals and funeral homes reach capacity. The units will be used if the county has three sustained days of 30 or more deaths.
The refrigerated morgue units will be used if the county has three sustained days of 30 or more deaths.
Next, Budish discussed the launch of the county’s Restaurant Stabilization Fund. The $1.2 million-dollar fund, administered by Destination Cleveland and distributed by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, will offer struggling restaurants grants up to $10,000. Visit cuyahogacounty.us/restauranthelp to learn more.
Food insecurity among Cuyahoga County residents has increased by more than 30 percent. More people seek help during this time, but due to the pandemic, more than 45,000 families have visited the Greater Cleveland Food Bank (GCFB) this year— twice as many as last year. The pandemic has also significantly impacted children’s food insecurity in the county, which has increased to more than 40 percent. This means for every 10 children in Cuyahoga County, four may not reliably have access to enough nutritious food. To help, the county has given $345,000 in funding to the GCFB, which will help provide more than 426,000 meals, including 33,000 bags of food for the food bank’s BackPack for Kids program. The county also plans to propose that its board of control give an additional $500,000 to the Hunger Network.
More than 45,000 families have visited the Greater Cleveland Food Bank this year.
Wrapping up his remarks, Budish discussed a proposal submitted to Cuyahoga County Council to use $17 million in roads and bridge funding to be used in 27 municipalities, paying close attention to communities that fall within the U.S. Census’ definition of poor economic health, such as Bedford Heights., Broadview Heights, Cleveland, East Cleveland, South Euclid, Parma and Warrensville Heights.
Following Budish’s remarks, Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) Commissioner Terry Allen addressed the briefing, noting that most purple counties, the highest level on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, were located in Northeast Ohio. For the past week, Cuyahoga County, including data from Cleveland, has averaged more than 800 cases per day, including two to three contacts for each one of those cases. The county is also among the top 20 counties in the state with the highest rates of transmission, reaching more than seven times the rate of high incidences as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county is also among the top 20 counties in the state with the highest rates of transmission.
With COVID-related emergency department visits increasing for the sixth week in a row, hospitals and medical facilities are concerned about bed capacity and staffing. And as they near capacity, and to make room for potential COVID patients, hospitals are delaying other medical care and procedures.
As the state heads towards seeing 10,000 daily cases of COVID, Allen warns residents about the impact gatherings – like over Thanksgiving—are having on CCBH’s ability to reach all those possibly affected by COVID. Because of the increase in cases, CCBH staff has begun triaging cases, contacting those who have the highest impact—like older adults. While he urged people celebrate the holidays with only those in the same household and rethink hosting or attending gatherings, he asked that people who choose to gather follow protective guidelines, wear masks and regularly clean high-touch surface areas.
We continue to observe the largest surge of cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
Next, Jana Rush, CCBH’s Director of Epidemiology, provided the latest epidemiological brief. As of December 4, there were 28,450 total coronavirus cases, 2,045 total hospitalizations, 467 total intensive care unit admissions, 716 deaths and 20,180 people presumed recovered. The county saw its highest single-day of positive cases of more than 1,100 in November. While patients with pre-existing conditions have decreased slightly, there has been an increase in intensive care unit adult beds, where now 80 percent are in use, the highest seen in the entire pandemic.
The county’s testing positivity rate has reached an all-time high of 25 percent. The increase in cases and positivity rates shows that transmission is occurring very rapidly throughout the county, placing the county on the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 travel advisory map.
Wrapping up the briefing, Co-Director of Prevention and Wellness Romona Brazile detailed some of the changes the CCBH is implementing to help reach those impacted by the virus. In a moment of vulnerability, Brazile remarked how “Despite everything we’re doing, it wasn’t going to be enough,” as the board works hard the accommodate the surge by hiring more staff and working six to seven days a week to contact as many people as they can.
Although the staff is triaging cases, they are continuing to prioritize schools and residents and staff in congregate settings (group homes and nursing facilities), followed by those at higher risk for complications due to the virus.