Time for Ohio to reset COVID-19 action plan

Ohio has done too good of a job slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The primary goal of “flattening the curve” was to reduce the burden on the health care system and therefore reduce the number of deaths from C19 or other illnesses that require hospitalization because the resources would be available to treat them. This has been a rousing success! The mitigation tactics used to slow the rate of infection have certainly had an effect. How much difference they have made is something that will be debated for years to come, but it appears Ohio went too far.

Most of us are anxious to put this whole pandemic in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible. The certain way to achieve that is to achieve “herd immunity” as soon as possible. But the obvious problem with that and the reason we were told by Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton for the current mitigation tactics was that unchecked, COVID-19 would spread so rapidly that it would overwhelm the health care system. This would have led to more deaths than we would otherwise experience because some of the people with severe symptoms, that would require treatment in the hospital, would not get that treatment because the need for hospital beds and ICUs would exceed what was available.

Here’s why Ohio has done too good of a job. Much of the data is suggesting that we are at or past the peak of this wave of the virus, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates beds in Ohio topped out at 9% of the 14,290 bed capacity and 15% of the 1,238 ICU bed capacity in our hospitals used for COVID-19 patients. This means we have been underutilizing our ability to treat people who have contracted the coronavirus. Even if everyone who has been hospitalized since the start of this pandemic (2,331 according to the Ohio Department of Health) were to be hospitalized at the same time it would only represent 19% of the available beds. We wanted to stay under capacity, but we needlessly stayed WAY under capacity.

This means, in Ohio, we have unnecessarily drawn out the length of time we will be impacted by the coronavirus because of overly strict mitigation tactics which have also caused unnecessary financial and emotional harm to individuals, families and businesses.

I’m not blaming the Governor, Dr. Acton, school boards, or anyone else for the measures taken. Everyone worked with the information that was available at the time and made decisions based on that information. It is, however, time to take a fresh look at the numbers and reset our game plan to allow the virus to spread at a rate that is commensurate with our medical capacity to handle those who become ill. That plan should include far fewer (if any) government mandated restrictions than those which are currently in place. Action needs to be taken immediately to limit the irreparable harm that is being caused by the current policies.

Joe and Maura Buckalew