As COVID-19 cases have continued to surge in Highland County, neighboring counties, and around the state, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that he has ordered the mobilization of an additional 1,250 members of the Ohio National Guard to support hospitals with the most critical needs across the state.
The additional strain put on hospitals by the current surge was the impetus for the Ohio National Guard deployment.
According to the Ohio Hospital Association, at the time of DeWine’s announcement, 5,356 people in the state were hospitalized for COVID-19. This surpassed the previous hospitalization record of 5,308 on Dec. 15, 2020. Of those hospitalizations, 1,228 patients were in the ICU, which approaches the record high of 1,318 ICU patients reported on Dec. 15, 2020.
The recently-announced Ohio National Guard deployment will add to DeWine’s previously authorized deployment of 1,050 guard members, bringing the total deployment of troops working with Ohio’s health care systems to 2,300.
According to Ohio National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., the goal of the deployment is to augment hospitals’ medical staff and wraparound services. He said teams including nurses and medics will provide clinical care and non-medical teams will offer support services such as food service, patient transportation within facilities, and administrative support.
Some of the guard members will be deployed to Dayton in the coming days. Approximately 460 guard members are deployed in the Cleveland area, more than 160 in the Toledo area, and about 100 in the Columbus area. Troops will also be sent to Mansfield and Lima. Guard personnel are also supporting testing sites in Cleveland and Akron.
“This is not something we take lightly… We are asking them to leave their families, their jobs and homes. This is a huge sacrifice,” said DeWine.
The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Hospital Association are working daily with Ohio hospitals to assess staffing needs to determine the most appropriate support from the Ohio National Guard.
Due to the COVID-19 surge, Ohio hospitals have been overwhelmed, have had to postpone elective surgeries and have faced staffing shortages as a result of COVID-19 infection or exposure, and burnout.
According to OHA data, the northern parts of Ohio have been particularly hard hit with one in three patients being COVID-19 positive in the greater Cleveland area.
While Southwest Ohio is not seeing the same volume of patients as northern parts of the state, Richard P. Lofgren, M.D., president and chief executive officer of UC Health, expressed concerns about the surge in cases making its way across the entire state during the coming weeks.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over … we are seeing more cases now than we have ever seen along the way,” he said. “Now, the spread of omicron is adding fuel to this raging fire. One of the things that I want to make sure that people understand is that this not only affects the care of people with COVID, but also affects people who don’t have COVID. It squeezes out our ability to take care of patients with other life-serious or life-threatening problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.”
Jennifer Hollis, a critical care nurse at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus spoke to DeWine about her experience in the hospital.
“I just want everybody to be able to walk a mile in my shoes and kind of understand, as a critical care nurse, what I am seeing when I am coming into work. It is beyond difficult,” she said. “Our beds are full. There is nowhere else to go, and we are just as short-staffed as everyone else is seeing as well … We are tired, we are frustrated, and we want the best for all of our patients.”
State and local health officials have urged Ohioans to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.
DeWine emphasized that the COVID-19 vaccines remain a powerful tool to keep people out of the hospital. Since June 1, 2021, there have been 35,962 admissions, and 92.5 percent of those have been among people who are not fully vaccinated.
“We are looking now at an impact of COVID-19 that is unlike anything we’ve seen before in this pandemic,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff. “We have access to a powerful tool that can really shield us from the worst outcomes of COVID-19, and that is vaccination.”
So far, more than 6.9 million Ohioans have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s 63 percent of those Ohioans eligible (ages 5 and older). More than 2.6 million have received an additional dose or a booster dose.
Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner also advocated for the vaccines in a Facebook post earlier this month. “Omicron does seem to reduce vaccine effectiveness (and presumably immune response due to natural infection) more easily than delta, but there is strong early evidence that vaccination still protects against severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” he wrote. “People who recently received a booster dose saw a 70 to 75 percent level of protection. Now is the time, especially for those who are high risk, to think about a booster dose of vaccine.”
In addition to vaccination, officials encouraged people to continue to wear face masks, wash their hands frequently, get tested, and stay home when sick, even if the symptoms are mild.
Below is a list of places testing in Highland County provided by the Highland County Health Department:
* Adena Health System
* Adena Family Medicine, Greenfield, 937-981-9444
* Adena Health Center, Hillsboro, 937-393-9955
* Barr Pharmacy, Hillsboro, 937-840-0136
Monday thru Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
* Corner Pharmacy, Greenfield
Tuesdays and Thursdays
Register online at: https://www.doineedacovid19test.com/
* Highland Health Providers
* Greenfield Medical Services, 937-981-1121
* Highland Family Healthcare, 937-393-4899
* Highland Family Medicine, 937-840-9150
* Lynchburg Medical Center, 937-364-2346
* Rocky Fork Medical Center, 937-402-5491
* Health Source of Ohio, Hillsboro
* Kratzer’s Pharmacy, Lynchburg
* Kroger Pharmacy, Hillsboro
* Rite Aid- Hillsboro
* Roman Family Healthcare, Greenfield
* Walgreens, Hillsboro
* West Main Urgent Care, Hillsboro
Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.