OHIO — A quarter of Ohio's hospitals are reporting staffing shortages as COVID-19 cases surge in the state and the country, officials said.

More than 1,000 hospitals in the U.S. are critically short on staff members, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

That means a fifth of hospitals are facing shortages. 

In Ohio, 27% of the state's 240 hospitals are reporting staffing shortages, the Ohio Hospital Association said.

“All of us are starting to be stretched,” said Dr. Robert Wyllie, the chief of medical operations at Cleveland Clinic. 

The Cleveland Clinic is short 970 staff members because either many are sick with COVID-19 or are in quarantine. 



“Our caregivers are starting to get COVID, acquiring it in the community. When you have 970-plus caregivers out, that means it’s starting to affect our ability to care for patients,” Wyllie added. 

The warning comes as Ohio reported 11,885 cases Monday, shattering the previous daily record of 8,808 set Friday. Gov. Mike DeWine warned the numbers are "artificially high" due to backlogs as departments are facing technical glitches and staff shortages, but regardless, he says the numbers are concerning. 

The state also reported that 4,358 patients currently are hospitalized with COVID-19, which is a 59% increase from two weeks ago — another record number. More than 1,000 people are in ICUs and 570 are on ventilators. 

“We can’t sound the alarm bell loud enough for people in the state of Ohio to change their behavior,” said Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at the Ohio State Medical Center.

The number of patients in Central Ohio have increased by nearly 500 since the beginning of November. 

Hospitals across the state are seeing similar trends. 

Mercy Health-Lima President Rhonda Lehman said coronavirus patients are being admitted in western Ohio at the fastest pace the hospital has seen since the start of the pandemic. Richard Lofgren, president and CEO of the University of Cincinnati HC Health system, said it will get to the point where COVID-19 patients outweigh the patients without it.

dashboard ​released Monday by the Ohio Hospital Association showed 1 in 4 inpatients have COVID-19, a 623% increase from the rate two months ago of 1 in 31. 

“The growth is exponential at this point. And it’s not that we're planning for the surge. The surge is here,” Lofgren said.

DeWine warned the state Monday that if residents don't start getting back to the basics — washing hands, social distancing and wearing masks — hospitals will be in crisis. 

"Every hospital in the state is going to have to make tough decisions" if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, DeWine said. 

The governor is expected to address the growing strain on hospitals during a press briefing at 2 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.