COLUMBUS, Ohio — COVID-19 patients are filling emergency rooms in Ohio as about 40% of the state’s hospitals are reporting staffing strain, according to officials. 

What You Need To Know

  • Some Ohio hospitals are postponing elective surgeries, officials said

  • On Wednesday, 3,147 Ohio patients were hospitalized with COVID-19

  • About 40% of hospitals were reporting staffing strain as of Wednesday

​​​On Wednesday, several hospitals had full emergency rooms as sick patients faced long waits for beds, according to Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at Ohio State Wexner. 

Thomas, who coordinates the pandemic response for hospitals in central and southern Ohio, said COVID-19 patients are now “crowding out” the hospitals, impacting non-COVID patients in need of care. 

“On today's surge call, we had multiple hospitals in the zone describe having patients boarding in their emergency departments too sick to go home, and waiting for a nonexistent inpatient bed in the hospital,” Thomas said Wednesay during a press conference where Columbus officials announced an indoor-mask mandate. 

Ohio hospitals are reporting that 3,147 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, while 849 patients are in intensive care units, according to the latest update Wednesday.

About a third of the hospitals in the region Thomas represents are “day-by-day” in their ability to provide elective surgeries, and he said that number is likely to rise.

“Some hospitals have already started postponing necessary surgeries, procedures and other routine care because they simply don't have the staff or the space to do it all,” he said. “Every hospital is realizing that, at some point, if the numbers continue, they need to be assessing the situation and potentially making those difficult decisions.”

Ohio Hospital Association President Mike Abrams said in a statement Wednesday that more hospitals in the state are now rescheduling elective surgeries to avoid scenarios in which their health care staff become overwhelmed. 

“Hospitals once again are being forced to make tough decisions — such as rescheduling elective procedures, activating patient- diversion plans and limiting visitation policies — to alleviate the pressure caused by the growing number of COVID-19 patients,” Abrams said. 

Dayton Children’s Hospital announced Wednesday it is tightening its policy for visitors, limiting visitors to family or guardians, and capping the number of visitors at two. Other health systems, including OhioHealth and Holzer Health have also implemented new visitation restrictions. 

Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious disease specialist at OhioHealth, said some of the health system’s hospitals are delaying elective surgeries. 

“At OhioHealth, each hospital, each care site is making decisions on their own on which types of surgeries or procedures they need to de-escalate or reschedule,” he said. “Each hospital is determining what they can do based on the capacity of COVID patients, non-COVID patients and more importantly, the staffing constraints that we're dealing with.

Gastaldo said health care staff in Ohio are fatigued from working on the frontline of the pandemic for 18 months. 

“We are all tired in health care, and we are really asking everybody in the community to step up, wear a mask and to get vaccinated,” Gastaldo said.

The vaccines continue to offer strong protection against severe illness, Gastaldo said. At OhioHealth, only about 15-20% of COVID-19 patients are fully vaccinated, and many of those vaccinated patients are immunocompromised.