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‘These deaths are preventable’: Ohio National Guard helping hospitals manage COVID-19

Guard members will help with bedside care, cleaning, food transportation, COVID-19 testing and more.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Officials with the Ohio Department of Health and the National Guard detailed the steps being taken to combat a rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state during a briefing Wednesday.   

Health officials reported a record-high number of COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with 12,502 more people testing positive for the virus in the span of 24 hours. According to Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, that same day there were close to 4,797 people fighting the virus in hospitals across the state.   

"With these numbers, we have a troubling picture," said Vanderhoff. "One that should be a wake-up call for every Ohioan as we think about our risk of getting sick with COVID-19, especially as we think about gatherings with loved ones for the holidays."  

Ohio health leaders and nurses from across the state held a briefing on Tuesday, urging Ohioans to get tested for the virus ahead of gathering for the holidays. Health experts also pleaded with Ohioans who feel ill to stay home. 

The plea comes as statewide hospitalizations continue to steadily increase. Currently, central Ohio hospitals are treating roughly 900 people for COVID-19. In northeastern Ohio hospitals, between 2,800 to 2,900 patients are battling the virus. 

On Tuesday alone, state health officials reported 584 new COVID-19 hospitalizations. Those hospitalizations are driven largely by unvaccinated Ohioans, Vanderhoff reiterated.  

The rise in capacity has forced some hospital systems, like The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and OhioHealth, to temporarily halt elective procedures that require an overnight stay.

"Our hospitals need our help, now," said Vanderhoff. 

That help is coming in the form of the Ohio National Guard. Last week, Governor Mike DeWine announced 1,050 guard members will deploy to hospitals to provide aid and assist with staffing issues. Vanderhoff said those members will assist larger hospitals which will, in turn, help alleviate pressure on smaller hospitals currently at or near capacity. 

According to Major General John C. Harris, Jr., adjutant general with the Ohio National Guard, most of the guard members will be medical professionals who can assist with bedside care. Other, non-clinical guard members, will help with cleaning, food transportation and other duties to assist medical staff. Members will also assist with COVID-19 testing efforts. 

The deployment will take place in waves, Vanderhoff said, listing off several hospitals in northern Ohio where the need is greatest.

One of those areas receiving help is Akron, where roughly 190 patients are currently being treated for the virus, filling one in three hospital beds. Of the 52 patients currently in the ICU, less than 2% are vaccinated, said David Custodio, president of Summa Health System and St. Thomas Hospitals in Akron.   

According to Custodio, the added support from National Guard members has been "very much received," adding his emergency department director is "thrilled."  

Those members have helped with triage, drawling blood, cleaning rooms and more, allowing hospital workers the time they need to care for patients. 

"At a one-year anniversary of when the vaccines became available, it's literally devastating and heartbreaking that we are in this condition that we are now," said Custodio. "These deaths are preventable."     

You can watch Wednesday's briefing in the player below: 

COVID-19 in Ohio: Recent Coverage ⬇️ 


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