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MetroHealth Releases COVID-19 Projections
Modeling done by The MetroHealth System suggests the peak for COVID-19 in Cuyahoga County may be significantly lower in the number of infections than originally expected, and that the county could see sustained impact driven by clusters of infection rather than a single large surge.
“The leadership from Governor DeWine, Dr. Acton and others has saved lives and radically altered the spread of coronavirus. The public distancing response is historic and has changed the trajectory of the infection from being driven by widespread communal transmission to infection in clusters of people in close contact.” said MetroHealth CEO and President Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE.
The bell-shaped infection curves that people have seen numerous times, assume widespread contact and are not applicable to rigorous containment efforts. In contrast, the jagged sustained curve predicted by the MetroHealth models are based on network effect and contact limitation. The models were developed to help MetroHealth prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 epidemic in our community.
The MetroHealth models show new infections in Cuyahoga County gradually increasing until around late April, followed by irregular outbreaks in clusters throughout the year. A similar pattern is expected statewide, with Ohio having significantly lower number of daily new infections than previously expected and continuing at flat rate through the remainder of the year.
The importance of social distancing cannot be overstated. These models do not mean people can or should go back to life as normal. In fact, they assume people will continue to stay home if they have symptoms, frequently wash or disinfect their hands, not touch their face, and stay at least six feet apart when in public, Dr. Boutros said. If we were to become lax or immediately go back to numerous unprotected close contacts, the bell-shaped surge would return.
MetroHealth physicians and public health officials have already observed clusters of infection involving people who have attended funerals, after religious celebrations, in nursing homes, the Cuyahoga County Jail, and confined workspaces.
A lower number of infections obviously results in fewer deaths and hospitalizations than unfettered community-wide infection. He credits Ohio’s leadership on social distancing practices for lowering the actual number of infections. He believes the models should be viewed in context of the overall health of Cuyahoga County and Northeast Ohio.
“The models have serious policy implications and raise important questions about how to best provide health care to our community,” Dr. Boutros said. “If this scenario continues to play out over several months, one question we as health leaders must address is, at what point do should we resume preventive screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies? We will need to provide health care treatment that is now being put on hold, while at the same time containing the spread of coronavirus.”
The State of Ohio ordered the cessation of elective surgeries and most preventive screenings in mid-March as part of an effort to reduce the number of people coming into the hospital and potentially spreading the virus. That decision also helped preserve personal protective equipment and blunted the spread of coronavirus.
“It is too early to declare victory, but this is a signal that here in Northeast Ohio we might be in a difficult, sustained campaign instead of a relatively short but intense war,” Dr. Boutros said. “We will continue to prioritize the health and wellness of our patients, our employees and our community. We will get through this by working together.”
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.