COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has reached a pandemic record high in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday as he ordered additional members of the state National Guard into hospitals to help with the surge. The state also saw another record number of new coronavirus cases.
In response, the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association asked school officials statewide to consider mandatory mask wearing as cases continue to spike.
“Please help us by requiring students to wear masks when they return to school,” the groups said. But at least one major district — Cleveland city schools — announced it was returning to remote learning for a week starting Monday.
In Cincinnati, Mayor John Cranley declared a state of emergency on Wednesday because of staffing shortages within the fire department. The move will allow the city to order overtime for firefighters and cancel vacations to ensure public safety, Cranley said.
Ohio had 5,356 people in the hospital with the coronavirus Wednesday, the highest since the pandemic began in March 2020, accounting for more than one of every five hospital beds. That’s also the highest per-capita hospitalization rate in the country, said Robert Wylie, chief medical operations officer at the Cleveland Clinic.
More than nine of every 10 people hospitalized with COVID-19 since June have been unvaccinated, DeWine said.
“If you’re vaccinated, the chances of you ending up in the hospital are pretty darn slim,” the governor said.
Even as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations spike, facilities are struggling with staffing levels. The Cleveland Clinic had more than 2,700 staff members out with the coronavirus on Wednesday, also a pandemic record, Wylie said.
DeWine is ordering the deployment of 1,250 members of the Ohio National Guard to help hospitals. That’s on top of the more than 1,000 members of the Guard that DeWine called up earlier this month.
A total of 20,320 new coronavirus cases were reported Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 7,592.86 new cases per day on Dec. 13 to 12,525.57 new cases per day on Dec. 27, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The number of positive tests is likely higher because of the widespread distribution of free, in-home testing kits whose results aren’t being reported, said DeWine. But dealing with underreported case numbers is not as important as people having the ability to be tested quickly, he said.