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More Ohio National Guard Members Are Being Deployed To Help With The COVID Pandemic

Governor Mike DeWine conducts a remote press conference about the ongoing COVID pandemic on December 29, 2021.
Ohio Government Television
Governor Mike DeWine conducts a remote press conference about the ongoing COVID pandemic on December 29, 2021.

Wednesday marks the highest daily average for new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic as 20,320 Ohioans have tested positive over the past 24 hours.

 COVID case count for December 29, 2021
Ohio Dept of Health
Ohio Dept of Health
COVID case count for December 29, 2021

Ohio's hospitals report being understaffed to serve the crush of patients they are caring for in their facilities.

Dr. Robert Wyllie of the Cleveland Clinic said more than 3000 people are hospitalized in the Northern zone where Cleveland is located. He said it's the highest ever in that zone. Wyllie also said the Cleveland Clinic itself has more than 1,000 patients in its hospital with COVID. Of those, 210 are in ICU. The doctor said more than 2,700 Cleveland Clinic workers are out with COVID right now.

Gov. Mike DeWine said hospitals are telling him they need more Ohio National Guard members to help out in their facilities. So, he’s authorized 1,250 members of the Ohio National Guard, most going to northern Ohio, where they are desperately needed.

“We are going to be guided by where they are needed the most today. And so two weeks from now it may be different. It may be different on two day or three days from now,” DeWine said.

There are now 460 Ohio National Guard members in Cleveland, 160 in Toledo, and 100 in Columbus. Others are in the process of being deployed to Mansfield, Dayton, and Lima. DeWine didn't give a timetable for how long National Guard members might be deployed.

Dan Konik

Health leaders are continuing to urge Ohioans to get vaccinated. Right now, more than 58% of Ohioans are fully vaccinated. Yet, hospitals said the patients they are seeing are largely unvaccinated. Since June 1, 2021, DeWine says 35,962 people have been admitted to hospitals with COVID. Of those, 2,687 were fully vaccinated.

Ohio is also experiencing high demand for COVID tests. About 1.4 million rapid at-home tests have been distributed to public libraries throughout Ohio in December alone. Lines at the Walker mass testing site in Cleveland have been long in recent days. Dr. Wylie said 36% of the tests conducted at that site are coming back positive.

State health leaders said the record-high number of positive cases being recorded is actually lower than the real number. When Ohioans get a PCR COVID test at a clinic or pharmacy, those results are automatically reported to the state. But when Ohioans take rapid at-home tests, they are not required to report the results. Gov Mike DeWine also said the real number of positive cases is higher than what is reported.

“We’re willing to accept that because we think there is a lot of good for people to be able to take a test and know, at least in that snapshot of time, whether or not they are positive," DeWine said.

DeWine said those who test positive on at-home kits often decide to stay away from others, preventing more spread of the virus. Rapid tests are reported to be in short supply right now as libraries deplete their stock quickly. There’s no word on when new stock will become available.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.