Allen County hospitals are not yet overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, but health officials expressed concerns Tuesday that could happen soon if residents are not serious about taking precautions.
Dr. Matthew Sutter, Allen County health commissioner, said state statistics show 353 are now hospitalized with COVID-19 in northeast Indiana.
The majority of those hospitals are in Allen County, he said, and the region's current COVID-19 caseload means hospitals “are moving to surge capacity.”
That means additional beds are being mobilized to handle patients.
As important, Sutter said, is health care workers are being stretched, and their numbers can't easily be increased.
The state health department reports District 3 – a 10-county northeast Indiana area that includes Allen County – typically has about 300 intensive care beds. The department's website does not offer a more specific breakdown.
Neither Dr. Jeffrey Boord, chief quality and safety officer with Parkview Health, nor Dr. Vishal Bhatia, regional chief medical officer at Lutheran Hospital, provided specifics about cases at their hospitals at Tuesday's news conference.
Bhatia urged residents not to ignore signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and to aid hospitals by following recommended health practices, including wearing a face covering, washing your hands and limiting social gatherings.
Boord added: “We must protect one another. We must ... protect our front-line health care workers. ... Do the right things, since we can save lives.”
Health officials pointed out that hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators of the pandemic's severity.
With the rising numbers of new cases, the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths will go up in the next few weeks if the local situation follows established trends, officials said.
And it will also take that much time for additional restrictions to take effect, Sutter said.
“One third of (intensive care) beds are filled now with COVID patients. That is unprecedented,” he added. “This is something we have not seen before.”