CLEVELAND, Ohio – Greater Cleveland coronavirus indicators have improved dramatically over the past few weeks for everything from cases and hospitalizations to trips to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.

Marked improvement can be seen with a quick glance at a key measure the state uses in its coronavirus alert system – new cases over the previous two weeks. This total for the seven-county Greater Cleveland area stood at 23,748 in the Dec. 17 report and at 19,206 on Jan. 14, but dipped all the way to 7,223 in the latest report issued on Thursday.

Yet a closer look at the data released weekly as part of the Ohio Department of Health’s alert tracking system shows how improvements regionally have occurred across the board – in some instances more dramatically so than the case reports.

This includes fewer hospitalizations, fewer trips to emergency rooms, fewer trips to doctors’ offices and a lower use of intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 cases, cleveland.com found in reviewing the detailed data for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties.

There were 836 cases regionally per 100,000 residents, excluding incarcerated individuals, in the two weeks leading up to the Dec. 17 report, which covered data through Dec. 15. That number dropped to 697.9 in the mid-January report and then sharply down to 262.5 on Thursday.

State health officials, per Centers for Disease Control guidelines, label rates above 100 per 100,000 as high incidence. Any county with a rate of 50 or higher is flagged for concern by the state.

Cases per 100,000 previous two weeks
12/15 1/12 2/16
Region 863.0 697.9 262.5
Cuyahoga 907.6 673.4 236.0
Geauga 588.4 604.4 258.4
Lake 671.3 762.6 293.7
Lorain 864.0 774.0 303.4
Medina 742.7 647.6 257.6
Portage 794.0 667.8 279.4
Summit 950.1 724.8 283.4

The second measure in the alert tracking system is the daily average of new cases, over the previous seven days.

That number in the seven-county region dropped from 1,273 for the seven-day period ending Dec. 15 to 417 in the most recently reported data released on Thursday, which covers reports through Tuesday.

This included significant drops in each county regionally.

New cases
(per day average over last 7 days)
12/15 1/12 2/16
Region 1,272.6 1,156.1 417.0
Cuyahoga 645.4 508.7 171.9
Geauga 24.0 35.3 14.3
Lake 76.6 100.3 38.6
Lorain 138.9 136.0 53.9
Medina 65.7 72.1 24.4
Portage 62.0 65.1 26.9
Summit 260.0 238.6 87.1

A third measure involves the seven-day average for emergency room visits involving patients with a COVID-19-like illness or a diagnosis.

These visits averaged 222.3 a day in the mid-December report, dropping to 48.3 in Thursday’s report.

Again, the drops have extended regionwide. In Cuyahoga County, for example, the drop off was from 128.6 a day to just 22.6. Summit County ER visits dropped from 41.7 a day to 11.4.

Emergency room visits
(per day average over last 7 days)
12/15 1/12 2/16
Region 222.3 80.7 48.3
Cuyahoga 128.6 39.6 22.6
Geauga 2.4 1.0 0.6
Lake 10.4 2.6 2.0
Lorain 15.9 14.7 7.7
Medina 14.4 5.0 2.3
Portage 8.9 2.7 1.7
Summit 41.7 15.1 11.4

Doctors’ offices, urgent cares and other out-patient facilities regionally in mid-December were seeing a daily average of 1,275 patients who then received a COVID-19 confirmed or suspected diagnosis.

This number dwindled to 128 a day in Thursday’s report.

Doctor/outpaitent visits
(per day average over last 7 days)
12/15 1/12 2/16
Region 1,275.0 205.7 128.3
Cuyahoga 700.1 82.6 50.3
Geauga 33.7 7.6 4.1
Lake 121.0 48.9 29.0
Lorain 116.9 15.4 10.0
Medina 67.9 9.4 8.3
Portage 45.6 6.1 6.0
Summit 189.9 35.7 20.6

New COVID-19 admissions to hospitals have also dropped sharply, going from 61.6 a day in mid-December to 19.9 in the latest report.

This is based on the county of residence, not the location of the hospital, because, as noted by the health department, “residents of rural counties may seek care at hospitals in neighboring counties.”

New hospitalizations
(per day average over last 7 days)
12/15 1/12 2/16
Region 61.6 36.3 19.9
Cuyahoga 26.9 14.4 6.4
Geauga 1.7 0.6 0.3
Lake 3.7 2.0 0.7
Lorain 5.1 5.6 3.3
Medina 3.6 0.6 0.7
Portage 3.7 2.9 2.3
Summit 16.9 10.3 6.1

The alert system also closely tracks occupancy rates for intensive care unit beds. This is done regionally, based on the location of the hospital – not the residency of the patients.

Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Lorain counties make up one region. COVID-19 patients occupy 10.3% of the available beds in this region, according to the latest report, down from 25.4% on Dec. 15 and 16.4% on Jan. 12.

A separate 13-county region designated by the state includes Medina, Portage and Summit counties. There, the coronavirus patients were using 29.1% of the ICU beds on Dec. 15, 21.9% on Jan. 12 and 9.8% according to this week’s report.

The seventh measure tracked by the state is for the share of all cases that are not in congregate living facilities. These shares have gone up in many places following the early vaccination effort that concentrated on reducing cases in nursing home and other long-term care facilities.

Rich Exner, data analysis editor for cleveland.com, writes about numbers on a variety of topics. Follow on Twitter @RichExner. See other data-related stories at cleveland.com/datacentral.

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