Cuyahoga Executive Armond Budish once again pleaded with residents to stay home unless going out for essential needs to stop the exponential climb in COVID-19 cases.

During the Cuyahoga County Board of Health briefing Nov. 20, 750 new cases were reported today – an all-time high for the county. Over 60 fatalities were reported this month, said Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan.

“We have to change our behavior – we have to act the way we would in the face of any life-threatening emergency,” Budish said.

Residents should only be going out for urgent needs, or else “suffering and death will increase beyond belief," Budish said.

The county was placed under a stay-at-home advisory Nov. 18 because of the increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. The advisory will be in effect until Dec. 17, and that date could be changed depending on progress.

The county has seen 19,926 total cases of the virus since it hit Ohio in March, which has caused 1,886 hospitalizations, 439 intensive care unit admissions and 664 deaths (or 3% of cases). 

Cleveland is not in CCBH's jurisdiction, so the actual number of cases is higher than the county’s report.

Cleveland Clinic is seeing 2.5 times more patients than at the virus peaks in March and April, with over 500 hospitalizations, Budish said. 

Allan said cases have surged 300% in the past month. The county could be on track for 1,000 to 2000 cases a day in comings weeks if these “continuing and very concerning trends” keep on, he said.

“What is certain is that cases have skyrocketed and we have to slow down this train to save lives,” Allan said.

He “begged” residents to always wear masks even inside other people’s homes for very small gatherings, and to spend Thanksgiving with only their own household and save the bigger celebration for another time. 

“We are in a very different place than we were last week,” said Board of Health Medical Director Dr. Heidi Gullett. “To be honest with you, when this started in March, I couldn’t imagine case counts of this scope and scale.”

Cases are flooding the health system across the state, she said, and the curve needs to decrease to keep health care workers safe and to ensure timely, effective treatment to all who need it. 

“We are in a crisis of health care worker staffing,” she said.

Gullett also said there are "quite a few" people in hospitals and in ICUs who do not have pre-existing conditions, demonstrating that a severe, life-threatening case of the virus can affect anyone. 

This week, 20.5% of those tested in hospitals tested positive for COVID-19, while last week under 15% were positive – demonstrating a sharp increase. The nursing home percent positive rate is 10% now, which is further confirmation of community spread, she said. 

She also noted the role systemic racism plays in who the pandemic affects and how severely it affects them. Black residents are doubly at risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to their white counterparts, and face a 3.4 times higher risk of need for hospitalization if they have the virus.

“We are continuing to watch this, we are continuing to use equity (to determine) where we test and figuring out where we need (more) testing,” Gullett said.

Asked by a reporter about the upcoming Cleveland Browns game and whether people should attend it, Allan deferred the question to the city of Cleveland, as FirstEnergy Stadium is not in the Cuyahoga County Board of Health's jurisdiction. Budish said while the stadium has gone to "great lengths" to make attending safe, the stay-home advisory suggests people should stay home and "now it’s up to each person to make their decision."

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