Hospital officials postpone build-out of alternate care facility in Dayton region

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Officials with Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to give an update on COVID-19 response in the area.

Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper was joined by Mayor Nan Whaley, Casey Smith with the Community Overdose Action Team (COAT), and Sarah Hackenbracht with the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 205 COVID-19 cases were reported to the state out of Montgomery County, leading to 70 hospitalizations and eight deaths.

Those with underlying health conditions tend to have a serious or even critical health outcome when dealing with coronavirus. This is an issue Cooper says is especially relevant in Montgomery County.

“When we look at the health status of Montgomery County, and if you look at all of the national county health rankings that we typically get every year, we tend to find that as a county, oftentimes for many of those [underlying] conditions, we tend to fare worse than other counties in Ohio or nationally,” he said, citing life expectancy, infant mortality, and overdose deaths as areas with troubling statistics.

Cooper went on to say that health outcomes for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and asthma show significant disparities among race, particularly the African-American community. All of these factors mean our collective actions as a community are that much more important, Cooper says, especially when it comes to the use of face masks.

“We’ve personally witnessed not enough individuals wearing a cloth face mask even though that’s a national, state, and county recommendation,” he said. However, Cooper went on to say that of the most populated counties in the state, Montgomery County maintains some of the lowest case numbers.

Mayor Whaley wants to prepare the community for life after the state lifts restrictions, saying things will not immediately go back to normal.

“It is very unlikely we will have large events in this community and across the state and it is very likely that we will wear cloth masks for a good amount of time moving forward as we reopen,” she said, adding that the process is made even more difficult by a continued lack of PPE availability and testing capabilities.

The Mayor encourages the public to “Strive for 5” and regularly reach out to at least five people in your life to check on their well-being, both physically and mentally.

Casey Smith is the project manager for COAT and also helps run Public Health’s COVID-19 call center. She says since the call center began on March 12, they have received over 4,100 calls. At their busiest, staff was fielding between 250 and 300 calls per day.

Initially, Smith says they mainly received questions such as “What is COVID-19? Am I at risk? What are the symptoms?” But those questions have since evolved and largely focus on the orders put in place at the state and local levels, whether certain businesses should be open, and how to find/donate PPE.

Smith says the call center is not the proper entity to handle concerns about workplace policies.

“If you have questions around your work from home policies, your paid time off, you’ve lost a job, those concerns should be going through your Human Resources or your appropriate supervisor within your business,” she said.

Smith adds that you cannot use the call center to find your COVID-19 test results, and you will need to contact the provider who ordered your test initially.

You can reach the call center at 937-225-6217 until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Sarah Hackenbracht with the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association says we are beginning to see the “real-life impacts” of COVID-19 both across the state and within our own community. While she believes citizens are doing a great job of being mindful of the health of themselves and others, there has been an inevitable uptick in hospitalizations and area hospitals stand ready to care for those patients, whether it’s for COVID-19 related care or not.

“Everything that each and every one of you are doing to stay home and shelter in place, to try and operate under this new environment of the shelter in place orders, allows us to increase the capacity in our hospitals and conserve the much-needed Personal Protective Equipment that is needed to care for patients on the frontline of COVID-19,” she said.

Hackenbracht says flattening the curve has given hospitals across the region time to plan and prepare to work together when caring for these patients should there be an uptick in hospitalizations. The Ohio National Guard has been participating in tours around the area to identify potential alternate treatment facilities.

“Because of the work that has been done in this region already to prepare and help us get to this point, we are postponing the build-out of the alternate care facility in the region,” she said. “But we are continuing to plan and prepare, which is something our community does better than any community in the state of Ohio.”

She maintains that their goal is to care for patients within an existing hospital facility.

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