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Northeast Ohio seeing decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, but doctors urge caution

Experts warn that current cases in the state are still higher than they were during the spring and early fall.

CLEVELAND — Ohio is seeing a welcome trend, with fewer than 3,500 active coronavirus hospitalizations for seven consecutive days.

The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center are following the same trend, according to doctors. Currently, there are fewer than 400 COVID-19 hospitalizations at the Clinic, which is a stark difference from the 800 patients within the system in December.

COVID 19 IN OHIO: The latest number of reported cases and trends

"It's good news to see the numbers come down," Clinic MICU Director Dr. Eduardo Mireles told 3News. "It makes everyone breathe and look towards the future, and it's not time to let go because the system is still strained."

At UH Cleveland Medical Center, virus hospitalizations have slowly dropped since November, according to COO Dr. Robyn Strosaker.

"Our numbers right now are less than half of what they were at Thanksgiving," she said. "We are hoping this trend continues because it's really a nice downward slope, and it's been slow and steady since the end of November."

However, both doctors warn that current cases in Ohio are still higher than they were during the spring and early fall.  

"Put that into context," Mireles said. "We feel better because the numbers are going down, but we still have more patients than we had in the first and second surge."

So why are we seeing fewer COVID-19 patients? Experts say it is due to fewer gatherings, masking up and social distancing. Both doctors we spoke to stressed we cannot contribute the decline in cases to the vaccines just yet.  

"It's a little too early for vaccines," Strosaker said. "We started vaccinating hospital employees at the end of December, and you really don't get your immunity from the vaccine until two weeks after your second dose. So at UH, we've only been giving second doses for a little over a week, so it's still a little bit too early to see the effects of the vaccine."

Mireles says there are still very sick patients in the ICU who are battling the coronavirus, and now is the not the time to let our guard down. Medical professionals are also keeping an eye on several variants that could contribute to another surge.  

"In order to have [cases] go completely down, we need to continue to behave the way we've been behaving now," Mireles explained.