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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Governor deploys more Ohio National Guard to help with the COVID pandemic

 Governor Mike DeWine conducts a remote press conference about the ongoing COVID pandemic on December 29, 2021.
Ohio Government Television
Governor Mike DeWine conducts a remote press conference about the ongoing COVID pandemic on December 29, 2021.

Today marks the highest daily average for new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic as 20,320 Ohioans have tested positive over the past 24 hours.

 COVID case count for December 29, 2021
Ohio Department of Health
COVID case count for December 29, 2021

Ohio's hospitals report being understaffed to serve the crush of patients they are caring for in their facilities. Dr. Robert Wyllie of the Cleveland Clinic says more than 3000 people are hospitalized in the Northern zone where Cleveland is located. He says it's the highest ever in that zone. And Wyllie says the Cleveland Clinic itself has more than 1,000 patients in its hospital with COVID. Of those, 210 in ICU. He says more than 2,700 workers there are out with COVID right now.

Gov. Mike DeWine says hospitals are telling him they need more Ohio National Guard members to help out in their facilities. So, he’s authorized 1,250 members of the Ohio National Guard, most going to northern Ohio, where they are desperately needed.

“We are going to be guided by where they are needed the most today. And so two weeks from now it may be different. It may be different two day or three days from now,” DeWine says.

There are now 460 Ohio National Guard members in Cleveland, 160 in Toledo, and 100 in Columbus. Others are in the process of being deployed to Mansfield, Dayton, and Lima.

Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau

Health leaders are continuing to urge Ohioans to get vaccinated. Right now, more than 58% of Ohioans are fully vaccinated. Yet, hospitals say the patients they are seeing are largely unvaccinated. Since June 1, 2021, DeWine says 35,962 people have been admitted to hospitals with COVID. Of those, 2,687 were fully vaccinated.

Ohio is experiencing high demand for COVID tests. About 1.4 million rapid at-home tests have been distributed to public libraries throughout Ohio in December alone. And lines at the Walker mass testing site in Cleveland have been long in recent days. Wylie says 36% of the tests conducted at that site are coming back positive.

State health leaders say the record-high number of positive cases being recorded is actually lower than the real number. When Ohioans get a PCR COVID test at a clinic or pharmacy, those results are automatically reported to the state. But when Ohioans take rapid at-home tests, they are not required to report the results. So, Gov Mike DeWine says the real number of positive cases is higher than what is reported.

“We’re willing to accept that because we think there is a lot of good for people to be able to take a test and know, at least in that snapshot of time, whether or not they are positive," DeWine says.

DeWine says those who test positive on at-home kits often decide to stay away from others, preventing more spread of the virus. Rapid tests are reported to be in short supply right now as libraries deplete their stock quickly. And there’s no word on when new stock will become available.
Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.