Gov. DeWine deploys National Guard to hospitals as COVID deaths surpass 2020

By: - December 17, 2021 1:40 pm

Photo by John Moore | Getty Images.

Gov. Mike DeWine is deploying more than 1,000 national guard troops to Ohio hospitals ahead of a busy holiday season that could swell the number of COVID-19 patients. The state is also in talks with a hospital staffing agency that could bring in additional workers from out of state.

“This will allow for Ohio hospitals to bring in qualified nurses and other medical personnel from out of state to fill needed positions and help ease some of the pressure on hospitals and their staff over the critical holiday period,” DeWine explained.

The governor’s move comes as the state faces a sobering reality: More people have died of COVID-19 this year than last despite widely available and effective vaccines. Many residents have stubbornly refused to get vaccinated, and the arrival of the highly contagious delta variant has underscored the consequences of their collective inaction. The nearly 14,000 Ohioans who have died this year were almost exclusively — about 95% — unvaccinated individuals.

Now, with the even more contagious omicron variant spreading, hospitals are bracing for yet another wave of the virus. According to Mike Abrams who heads up the Ohio Hospital Association, facilities around the state are teetering.

“In recent weeks hospitals have had to make difficult decisions to ensure hospital services were available including postponing elective surgeries, transferring patients to other facilities and diverting EMS services,” Abrams said in an emailed statement. “We are also seeing an increase in influenza cases. The ongoing workforce challenges facing our members coupled with latest surge of COVID-19 patients has created an urgent need for workforce assistance.”

DeWine’s office notes most hospitals in Northern Ohio have suspended elective surgeries and in the central and southeastern part of the state, many are beginning to follow suit. But after almost two years, DeWine said the nature of the need has changed.

“Earlier in the pandemic, our concern in our hospitals was about beds, was about space, today is about personnel,” DeWine said. “22 months. 22 months of this pandemic has taken its toll on our health care workers, and that is certainly, certainly understandable.”

Of the 1,050 national guard troops being deployed, about 150 are medically trained personnel who can assist in helping patients. DeWine insisted that he and Adjutant General John Harris have worked together to ensure the deployment won’t mean pulling people away from a hospital day job to go work at a different hospital. The remaining 900 troops will be tasked with support services.

“They will do many things to help the hospitals in this time of great, great crisis,” DeWine said. “It will involve transport within the hospital, food and the environmental work that goes on in hospitals and is so very important every single day.”

The governor’s office expects the deployment to begin Monday. There’s no specific timetable for when it might end. While the governor says talks with the staffing agency are advanced, he would not put a timeframe on when that agreement would be finalized.



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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.