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'This is a coming crisis': Columbus-area hospitals issue warning about surge of COVID-19 patients

Over the course of the past month, hospitals in central Ohio have seen a steady increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state's health leaders and nurses detailed the strain on central Ohio hospitals amid a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations during a briefing Tuesday. 

Over the course of the past month, hospitals in central Ohio have seen a steady increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. 

According to Dr. Andy Thomas, chief medical officer with The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, there are nearly 900 patients in central Ohio hospitals with COVID-19. In northeastern Ohio hospitals, between 2,800 to 2,900 patients are battling the virus. 

"This is a coming crisis for central Ohio in a way we probably haven't seen before," said Thomas. 

Admission rates at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center's hospitals are the highest reported since last January, according to Thomas, who said the rise is cause for concern.

Nate Royster, an emergency department nurse at the Wexner Medical Center, said all of their emergency departments are full of patients.

Nurses said they are at their breaking point trying to care for more patients with fewer nurses because they are getting sick too.

“When nurses are burned out and at their wit's end, we're not effective caregivers so you can't pour from an empty cup,” said Tracie Hayes, the Unit Nurse Manager at Mount Carmel Health System.

“It's breaking my heart, it's breaking my heart every day going to work and seeing people die when I know it can be prevented,” said Jennifer Hollis a nurse at Riverside Methodist Hospital.

The update comes one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, as of last week, the omicron variant is responsible for 73% of the country's newest virus cases. 

Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state will deploy 1,050 members of the Ohio National Guard in an effort to combat staffing issues at hospitals. 

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and OhioHealth announced both will be postponing elective surgeries starting on Jan. 3 as COVID-19 cases continue to fill up hospital beds.

Nate Royster works in the emergency department at OSU Wexner Medical Center and can attest to the current strain on hospitals. All central Ohio emergency departments are currently full, with some having to divert patients to other locations, Royster said. 

"We've seen record numbers of patients in our lobby, we've seen a lot of patients that are stuck down in the ER, waiting for a bed upstairs because there's just simply nowhere for them to go," Royster said.    

Of the patients hospitalized, the few who are fully vaccinated are released and told to monitor their symptoms. Royster said patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit were unvaccinated.   

Roughly 40% of the population in Franklin County is still not vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Dr. Roberts.  

Ahead of the holidays, health officials suggest taking a COVID-19 test before gathering with loved ones. If you're feeling sick, health officials urge not to gather at all. 

"We all must act now," said Roberts. "Today, not tomorrow, not after Christmas, but now." 

You can watch Tuesday's briefing in the player below: 

COVID-19 in Ohio: Recent Coverage ⬇️

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