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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.

Biden to send military medical staff to Cleveland Clinic to help with COVID-19 surge

The Cleveland Clinic medical intensive care unit has been filled with COVID-19 patients for several weeks, and the hospital is also overwhelmed due to staffing shortages. The Biden administration is expected to announce the deployment of military medical teams to assist the hospital system Thursday morning.
Lisa Ryan
/
Ideastream Public Media
The Cleveland Clinic medical intensive care unit has been filled with COVID-19 patients for several weeks, and the hospital is also overwhelmed due to staffing shortages. The Biden administration is expected to announce the deployment of military medical teams to assist the hospital system Thursday morning.

The Biden administration is sending military medical staff to assist Cleveland Clinic with its COVID-19 surge, officials from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) announced Thursday.

Twenty medical staff members of the U.S. Air Force will be deployed to Cleveland Clinic's main campus, said ODH director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff in a news conference Thursday. The medical team will help the hospital system "open closed beds and be able to accept more transfers" amid surging hospitalizations and staffing shortages, Vanderhoff said.

"We are grateful for the federal support as we continue to face a challenging COVID-19 surge in our Ohio hospitals. The addition of military medical personnel allows us to care for more patients in our community," Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Tom Mihaljevic said in a statement. "We continue to urge everyone to take precautions and receive their COVID-19 vaccine, as the majority of our patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated."

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that six military medical teams comprised of a total 120 doctors and nurses would be deployed to states that are being especially hard hit by the omicron variant, including Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico.

The medical team will likely arrive at Cleveland Clinic next week, according to a hospital spokesperson. The deployment could last one to two months, Vanderhoff added.

Biden said the pandemic was a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" and acknowledged that while vaccinated people do still get infected with the virus they are much more likely to suffer only mild symptoms if any at all.  

"If you’re not vaccinated, you're 17 times more likely to be hospitalized," he said. 

That means that unvaccinated COVID-19 patients are becoming dangerously ill and crowding hospitals, he said, leaving medical centers without capacity to treat people with other illnesses and conditions. 

“It’s been a long road, but what’s clear is that we’ll get through this when everyone does their part,” he said. “If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do. Personal choice impacts us all.”

Gov. Mike DeWine already deployed 2,300 members of the Ohio National Guard to help stressed hospitals in the state. Some of the guard members are clinical staff, while the majority are helping with miscellaneous tasks such as cleaning rooms.

Hospitalizations have been surging in Ohio for several weeks. Daily COVID-19 case counts have surpassed 18,000 every day since Dec. 29, 2021 except Jan. 1 of this year, when no cases were added on the New Years holiday.

The rise in COVID-19 cases is driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, according to health officials.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
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