Ohio National Guard hospital help latest of pandemic deployments

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The Ohio National Guard, before being called to Dayton to help staff Miami Valley Hospital, has been sent around the state to fill in positions around the state, from jails, to hospitals, to foodbanks, as pandemic surges have left worker gaps and increased needs.

In the latest move, Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Dec. 17 that 1,050 Ohio National Guard members were activated to help with COVID-related staffing shortages in nursing homes, and then last week said an additional 1,250 guard members would be deployed to help hospitals.

“This is not something we take lightly... We are asking them to leave their families, their jobs and homes. This is a huge sacrifice,” DeWine said.

The guard arrived at Miami Valley Hospital Thursday to start orientation. Hospital leaders said the members will be helping with food service, patient transportation and other non-clinical jobs.

Since March 23, 2020, more than 4,000 soldiers and airmen, and members of the Ohio State Defense Force — which includes the Ohio Military Reserve and Ohio Naval Militia — have been called to about 70 missions that have included supporting the state’s community vaccination center, distributing food at local food banks and processing pandemic unemployment claims.

“The scope and duration of the missions have been unprecedented,” said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general, said in a statement about their year in review.

Starting March 2020, Guard members helped with Ohio’s foodbanks and the 15-month mission ended in July. At Dayton-area food distribution drive thrus, they could be seen handing out food and breaking down boxes.

They performed COVID-19 test collection and sometimes have shored up short staffed nursing homes. WGTV reported Dec. 29 that Ohio National Guard helped a Findlay long-term care facility where staff said they were overworked and had walked out.

All the while, the Ohio National Guard has been on other federal and state missions over the past year, like the ice storm cleanup in February in Gallia and Lawrence counties and going to Louisiana after Hurricane Ida.

Leading up to the latest decision to deploy 2,300 Guard members to Ohio hospitals, COVID-19 cases have been skyrocketing, leaving thousands of people isolating or quarantining and away from their jobs.

For the week of Dec. 26, Ohio recorded 134,588 people newly testing positive for COVID-19 with either a PCR or antigen test, which is a little over 1% of the state population. This surge driven by the omicron variant has both led to more people seeking treatment, and more health care workers out isolating or quarantining.

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