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CLEVELAND (WJW) – It’s being described as a dire situation by hospital staff members — COVID hospitalization numbers are reportedly rising at an alarming rate, filling emergency rooms and intensive care units.

On Tuesday, Cleveland Clinic Pulmonary and Critical Care physician Dr. Joseph Khabbaza said they’re seeing some of the highest volumes of patients across the clinic’s Ohio health systems since the start of the pandemic.

“For the first time throughout this, we’re consistently having ICU patients waiting in the emergency departments at most of our hospitals waiting for an ICU bed to open up,” said Dr. Khabbaza.

The clinic is reporting approximately 800 COVID patients with about 200 in the ICU.

Although the omicron variant has been detected at the clinic, he says this current situation is being caused by the ongoing delta variant spike combined with a number of other factors.

“Kind of the perfect storm of waning immunity from the vaccines, and there are people who’ve chosen not to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Khabbaza.

This all comes on the one-year anniversary of the shots being made available in the United States, and the release of a new study from South Africa that shows the Pfizer vaccine is less effective in keeping people out of the hospital.

But Dr. Joseph Khabbaza says the vaccines can still prevent more serious illness and death.

“We’re certainly seeing a lot of breakthrough cases in those who have not been boosted as a result of delta. Thankfully, a lot of those are not ending up in the hospital. 80% of our hospitalized patients are all unvaccinated and then when you go up to the higher level of illness, that number is probably 90% and higher,” said Dr. Khabbaza.

Governor Mike DeWine is again encouraging Ohioans who can take the shot, speaking to reporters Tuesday about the situation at hospitals, but he says the state has no plans to issue any more orders.

“We urge them this week, use this week as the opportunity to get the booster shot,” said DeWine, “We’re well beyond the point we can issue additional health orders.”

People are encouraged to practice safety protocols from wearing facial coverings indoors to hand sanitizing and social distancing.

While doctors do all they can to save as many patients as possible, they say it’s getting more difficult by the day. 

“Nothing in training can prepare you for this volume of death, suffering, grief, tears, but you just go one day at a time,” said Dr. Khabbaza.