Amid Record COVID Cases, DeWine Mobilizes 1,250 More National Guardsmen

COLUMBUS, Ohio — To provide aid to hospitals struggling to serve increased numbers of COVID patients, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday another 1,250 members of the Ohio National Guard will be mobilized to those hotspots.

DeWine made the announcement during a special virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon when a record 20,320 new COVID cases in the state were reported by the Ohio Department of Health.

Hospitalizations are also trending higher, with more than 5,356 hospitalizations reported Dec. 29, including 1,228 in intensive care and 757 on a ventilator.

Since June 1 – when nearly all Ohioans had access to COVID vaccines – more than 35,962 individuals have been hospitalized with the virus. Of those, some 2,687 were fully vaccinated, indicating 92.5% of those hospitalized with COVID were not, DeWine reported Wednesday.

“What we’re seeing in our hospitals – our hospitals filling up, our emergency rooms – is being driven by people who are not vaccinated,” DeWine said. “And the numbers clearly, clearly show that.”

DeWine initially mobilized 1,050 National Guard members in mid-December to support hospitals currently understaffed to support the increased numbers of COVID patients in addition to non-COVID patients. Many of the hospitals have already cut back on elective surgeries, he said.

Of those forces, more that 460 are deployed in Cleveland, with another 160 in Toledo, about 100 in Columbus, and smaller numbers in a few other areas like Mansfield, said Maj. Gen. John Harris, adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard. In the next few days, a few others will be deployed to Dayton and as far west as Lima.

The National Guard is working closely with the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Hospital Association and the state to identify additional hotspots of need, Harris said.

“The goal here is to expand the hospitals’ capacity, because most of the hospitals tell us their challenge is not shortage of beds, but shortage of staffing to staff those beds,” Harris said. “We look at the numbers daily and we have the ability to life and shift our resources as necessary to meet that demand.”

Mobilization of the additional forces comes after hospitals have requested more help from the state, DeWine said.

“This is not something that we do lightly. These are our fellow citizens,” DeWine said. “We are asking them by mobilizing them to leave their families, we’re asking them to leave their jobs, we’re asking them to leave their homes. So it is a huge sacrifice and we are very grateful for their willingness throughout this pandemic to do that.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.