Jefferson County doctor offers a dire warning for Eastern Ohio on COVID: “It’s here.”

Jefferson County

COLUMBUS, OHIO (WTRF) — Dr. Matthew Colflesh of Trinity Health System spoke remotely on the state of coronavirus in Jefferson County today at Ohio Governor DeWine’s press conference.

Colflesh had a warning for Jefferson County and southeastern Ohio:

“We haven’t felt the full ramifications of COVID yet,” he said.

DeWine noted that COVID-19 has now penetrated southeastern Ohio as it has the rest of the state.

Colflesh stated the virus has definitely been on the rise in Jefferson County over the past few months.

“In April at the original surge of the virus, the peak number of people in our hospital was nine, ” Colflesh said.

He said at that juncture, the hospital was taking patients from outside the community to help out other facilities.

“We didn’t have patients from our community. We were fortunate for that,” Colflesh said.

During the second peak of the virus, there was a maximum of five people hospitalized.

The rise in hospitalizations has been dramatic in the past two weeks, explained Colflesh.

“In the past two weeks, maximum hospitalization in this hospital is 34, and I would expect that is going to climb,” said Colflesh.

He noted that Jefferson County opened schools and had increased activity in the community in late summer but did not see a spike.

With the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, Colflesh said his hospital is” stressed” and that this is compounded by staffing issues, especially with nurses. He said he is reaching out to different areas to find staff. Critical care and ambulatory nurses are two specialties needed. He said the hospital stopped elective procedures earlier this year and that he sent home advanced practitioners and even doctors.

Colflesh said there is enough “real estate” or beds at Trinity but finding staff has proven difficult.

“The stress and strain of losing staff is really impactful, and we are feeling that,” said the doctor.

“The reality is that as we approach Thanksgiving, that is is different and we are stressed, ” explained Colflesh.

Still, Colflesh said Trinity Health Systems is prepared to serve the community and that the hospital has ongoing meetings and developed a disaster plan in April.

There is a fatigue in the community over restrictions and things like mask-wearing and social distancing, Colflesh said.

Colflesh is concerned about what the next few weeks will bring with winter approaching.

“COVID is a nasty virus. We are used to viruses and cold weather in Ohio, but this one is different,” he explained.

Governor DeWine asked Colflesh what his message was to the people of Eastern Ohio about Thanksgiving.

He said he has concerns about Thanksgiving.

“People need to be reasonable. People have been through this long enough to see things and form their own ideas about how they do mitigation. But the reality is with our population of older folks, now is the time to be reasonable with them at Thanksgiving and protect them,” Colflesh said.

He will follow his own advice for the holiday. He will Zoom Thanksgiving this year with his parents.

“As for Thanksgiving, we have to take a step back. You know what Jefferson County? It hit us now. It’s here,” Colflesh said.

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