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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

DeWine: '100% Of Ohio Is High-Incidence' For Coronavirus

mike dewine
Courtesy of Gov. Mike DeWine's office

For the last 13 days, Ohio has set a record with hospitalizations for COVID-19. And every county in the state of Ohio is considered a "high incidence" county for coronavirus.

Gov. Mike DeWine says the increases in Ohioans hospitalized with COVID-19, in intensive care units and on ventilators shows the virus is widespread throughout all parts of Ohio. 

"One-hundred percent of the state is high-incidence," he said during a Monday press conference. "That means that there are enough cases throughout the last two weeks to get to high incidence, that the risk of catching this virus in every county is real and certainly very concerning."

DeWine says congregating continues to be the culprit for spreading this virus. He cites a situation where 10 teachers are now quarantined in one county because they attended one of two Halloween parties where at least one of them had COVID-19.  

'An Unprecedented Spike' In Hospital Utilizations

Health authorities are bracing for the situation to worsen as we go into the holiday season.

A lack of available staff could greatly impact the care hospitals are able to provide for both coronavirus patients and anyone else in need of hospital services, said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, incoming chief medical director of the Ohio Department of Health Monday.

Hospital challenges have changed throughout the course of the pandemic.

In the spring, one of the biggest concerns for hospitals was a shortage of personal protective equipment. Now, Ohio hospitals say they have enough supplies, but there are worries about staffing shortages.

"We are seeing in the state an unprecedented spike in hospital utilization," Vanderhoff said.

The state is divided into three coronavirus care zones, and the leaders of each zone said Monday that health care providers are primarily catching coronavirus from community spread, not from hospitals or their workplaces.

When health care providers are exposed, they aren't able to work and that means fewer people to care for patients, Vanderhoff said, warming that if Ohio's community spread isn't controlled within the next few weeks, less urgent care may have to be postponed in order to care for the sickest patients.

The doctors say the cutback on less urgent procedures will not happen immediately, and it may be a matter of each hospital making decisions based on their capacity.

In mid-March, elective surgeries and procedures in Ohio were halted under a statewide health order as part of the effort to keep health care staff and equipment available for coronavirus response; elective procedures resumed in late April, though doctors and patients were urged to consider both the health and virus-exposure risks involved.

"The number of hospital cases in our community is doubling every three weeks," said Dr. Richard Lofgren, president and CEO of UC Health.

The doctors said hospitals have enough personal protective equipment, beds and ventilators.

The end of the pandemic is in sight, said Dr. Robert Wyllie, chief medical operating officer at the Cleveland Clinic. There will be a vaccine soon, he said, but everyone needs to wear masks, avoid gatherings and keep up best cleaning practices until the vaccine is available.

Vaccinations are likely to be available in four to six months, Wyllie said.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.