COLUMBUS -- Ohio Governor Mike DeWine called a press conference of Ohio's medical leaders Monday to announce good and bad news regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the positive side, Dr. Bruce Vanderhof, announced last week as the Ohio Department of Health's chief medical officer, said drugmaker Pfizer revealed an early look at data from its coronavirus vaccine shows it is more than 90 percent effective -- a much better-than-expected efficacy if the trend continues.
The vaccine requires two doses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it would expect at least 50 percent efficacy from any coronavirus vaccine.
In an interview with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Monday morning, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla called the COVID-19 vaccine "the greatest medical advance" in the world's last 100 years.
The vaccine could be approved for limited usage in the United States at some point next month.
However, Vandrhof also cautioned residents the ongoing recent rise in the spread of COVID-19 around the state is not sustainable -- in terms of physical hospital space or for hospital staff members.
"We are grappling with unprecedented COVID-19 numbers and they are impacting every community. Our hospitals statewide are approaching maximum capacity. We are exhausting the available supply of trained personnel. We need your help with masking, distancing and hand hygiene," said Vanderhof, who had been the senior vice president and chief medical officer for OhioHealth.
"If we don't control the spread, we won't be able to continue caring for the acutely ill without postponing important, but less urgent, care. This kind of shift could happen in a matter of weeks if trends don't change. We are seeing an increasing demand on our staffing. Every county in the state is feeling the brunt."
Vanderhof and other medical leaders spoke during a Monday afternoon press conference called by DeWine, who introduced Vanderhof and then left for a speech to the Ohio Municipal League.
DeWine and the medical officials gathered Monday have attributed the rising caseload to Ohio residents letting down their guard particularly during informal gatherings with family and friends.
The experts pointed to a rapid rise in new COVID-19 cases in November. Ohio has averaged 4,3654 new cases in the first eight days of November, compared to 1,991 in October and 1,028 in September.
When the pandemic reached Ohio in March, one of the responses was to divide the state into three medical zones, asking the Ohio Hospital Association to help the various hospitals, large and small, to work together.
Included among the medical experts speaking Monday were the leaders of the zones, including Dr. Robert Wyllie from the Cleveland Clinic (Zone 1, northern Ohio); Dr. Andy Thomas from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (Zone 2, central and southeast Ohio); and Dr. Richard Lofgren of UC Health in Cincinnati (Zone 3, southwest Ohio).
"We have adequate beds PPE, and ventilators right now. But we're seeing a lot of our caregivers coming down with COVID-19," Wyllie said. "It's not because they're catching it in the hospital, it's because they're catching it in the community, so we need everyone to double down. Please wear a mask and social distance to protect Ohio's caregivers."
Lofgren said, "We've had an unprecedented increase in hospital cases since the beginning of October. We have over 670 patients today, our previous peak was 300 patients in July. This is a whole magnitude higher."
The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests has also escalated rapidly. On Sept. 20, the seven-day average for positive tests was 2.8 percent. On Nov. 7, the seven-day average was 9.4 percent.
All of the experts pointed out hospitalizations lag behind positive cases, meaning the usage will continue to increase.
"If we continue to see cases on the rise, hospitalizations will be on the rise for another two weeks after cases peak. We need the citizens of Ohio to take masking, distancing, washing hands, and avoiding large gatherings seriously," Thomas said. "Given the spike we've seen in total cases and hospitalizations, we may be two or three weeks out from crowding out non-COVID care."