by J.D. Davidson
More than 1,000 Ohio National Guard members began working in hospitals across the state Monday to help combat what Gov. Mike DeWine called a growing strain caused by the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The Ohio Department of Health also has begun working with a staffing company to bring more nurses and other providers from out of state to help ease pressure on current hospital staffs as the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has reached its highest level of the year.
“While the staff will be concentrated in the places where they are most needed, the entire state will feel relief as the arrangement supports the coordination of patient care that has been happening really since the beginning of this pandemic,” DeWine said at a news conference.
Nearly all hospitals in the northern tier of the state have decided to cancel elective surgeries, DeWine said, while some in the central area have done the same. Southern Ohio hospitals are in the planning stages of pausing those surgeries.
DeWine called the growing case load and the timing a perfect storm as the delta variant continues to spread and the recent omicron variant has appeared in the state. He also said health officials believe this year’s flu season will be stronger than last year because of the relaxation of mask and social distancing requirements.
More than 4,700 people with COVID-19 were in Ohio hospitals as of Friday, and DeWine said 9 out of every 10 of those are unvaccinated. One in 5 hospital patients have COVID-19.
About 150 of the guard members are trained medical professionals and will be deployed for critical needs at hospitals and testing locations. The remaining 900 members will help with patient transport, housekeeping and food services.
“Earlier in the pandemic, our concern was about beds, about space,” DeWine said. “Today it is about personnel. Twenty-two months of this pandemic has taken its toll on our health care workers. That is certainly understandable. Twenty-two months they have fought this war. The pressure, the stress they are facing is unprecedented.”
DeWine continued to encourage vaccinations and boosters as the answer to ease the stress on hospitals. He also called on schools to continue requiring masks or return to masks for the next several weeks. He did not announce any mandates or orders.
“Now is clearly the time for us to exercise caution, to be careful,” DeWine said.
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J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist at The Center Square with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.
Photo “Ohio National Guard” by The National Guard. CC BY 2.0.