Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals discuss COVID surge, cases in children


CLEVELAND (WJW)– Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals held a joint news conference on Thursday to provide an update on the status of COVID-19, including the latest surge, impact on intensive care units and cases in children.

All of the officials emphasized doing things scientifically proven to work in preventing the virus: get vaccinated, social distance, wear masks and wash hands.

The two hospital systems have coordinated patient loads, split duties at long-term living centers and shared analytics on the virus.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals have been communicated nearly on a daily basis to provide the best care, not only for the people in our health systems, but all the hospitals and all the potential people who needed to be hospitalized in northern Ohio,” said Dr. Robert Wyllie, chief of medical operations at Cleveland Clinic.

The latest surge of COVID peaked about a month ago, averaging more than 7,200 patients a day, Wyllie said. It’s now down to less than 3,500, as of Thursday morning. Hospitalizations dropped from more than 3,700 to under 2,500.

Dr. Claudia Hoyen, director of pediatric infection control at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, said pediatric hospitals were effected, unlike with surges in the past.

“We got to a point that our beds were very tight. People are working above and beyond to do whatever they can for the patients. So it important to do whatever we can, whether that is for our children or for ourselves, to get us healthy as we’re going into the winter,” Hoyen said.

She said the hospital is worried about the side effects from COVID they may see in children in the coming weeks, like MIS-C. That’s multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which can require intensive care. Hoyen also said they are seeing a disturbing number of children with long COVID. Young children are now the vulnerable group, since vaccination is not yet available, she said.

Dr. Hassan Khouli, chief of critical care medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, said the surge, driven by the delta variant, has been hard on its intensive care units with patients needing life-support treats. He said the Clinic’s ICUs are seeing 90 to 100 patients a week, which he called significant to manage and mentioned it effects care for other patients.

“What we are seeing currently is that most of the patients, approximately 90 percent of patients that come to our hospitals and intensive care units, are the unvaccinated who get COVID-19. These tend to be the older patients,” Khouli said. “We’re seeing more and more young patients. Patients who are young who require life-support treatments, including ventilators. And some of these patients are unfortunately dying from this disease.”

He said families requests for unproven treatments has also complicated how they manage their patients. He said the Cleveland Clinic will focus on what is science-based and effective in treating COVID-19.

Dr. Dan Simon, president of academic and external affairs and chief scientific officer for University Hospitals, discussed the new antiviral drug from Merck to treat COVID. It costs about $700, compared to the $3,000 for the monoclonal antibody treatment. He said he believes it will be available in December.

“There’s a lot of room for excitement today. We now have the Tamiflu-equivalent for COVID-19,” Simon said. “This oral pill, four pills in the morning and four pills in the evening, for five days. A total of 40 pills reduced hospitalizations and severe disease by 50 percent.”

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