- Cleveland Clinic officials expect COVID-19 inpatient volumes in Ohio to reach a peak in the coming weeks, according to a statement released Monday. The disclosure signals volumes may be close to reaching an apex in Ohio before entering a downswing.
- The forecast comes amid national reports of declining hospitalizations, though hospitals in many areas are still stretched to the brink. Facilities are reporting staffing shortages as they implement vaccine mandates and as burnout among clinicians spikes.
- Cleveland Clinic's volumes are unlikely to eclipse the surge in winter, when they hit their highest levels. It's likely a welcome sign as the system has been forced to schedule fewer non-emergency procedures, which are typically more lucrative.
The update comes as hospitalization rates in the U.S. are finally trending downward after a summer surge, the second largest during the pandemic, despite the arrival of vaccines.
The delta variant helped fuel the rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths this summer even though vaccinations became readily available to many Americans. The variant grabbed hold in areas with low vaccinations rates, frustrating providers who had to again scale back non-emergency procedures amid staffing challenges.
As of Tuesday, hospitalizations in the U.S. are down 16% over the past two weeks, according to the 14-day average from data compiled by The New York Times.
The U.S. reached a turning point in this year's summer surge earlier this month, according to the seven-day averages. The average hospitalizations reached a peak on Sept. 3, started to decline the next day and have been trending down ever since, according to data compiled by the Times.
The Cleveland Clinic is the latest health system to signal it may also be reaching a peak in the latest surge.
The system is currently treating 460 COVID-19 patients across its Ohio hospitals, 138 of which are in ICUs. The majority of these patients are unvaccinated, Cleveland Clinic said Monday.
Other health systems in hard-hit areas are also reporting a decline in hospitalizations.
In central Florida, AdventHealth recently said it is returning to a "green status." Overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients earlier this summer, the health system graduated to "black status," which meant it was forced to divert care and postpone non-emergency surgeries.
AdventHealth also said last week it was suspending its weekly COVID-19 briefings as normal operations resume, another sign of continued improvement.
And in Southwest Missouri, CoxHealth continues to see a decline in hospitalizations, according to CEO Steve Edwards, who continually sounded the alarm on Twitter over the rapid rise in hospitalizations earlier this summer. Despite weathering earlier surges in the pandemic, the delta surge caused CoxHealth to divert patients to larger metropolitan areas for the first time in pandemic.
Still, hospital margins remained strained in the month of August as volumes fell below pre-pandemic levels. The patients that were admitted required more resources, too, as they tended to be sicker and stayed for longer, consultant group Kaufman Hall found in a recent report.