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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

Ohio sets new record for COVID-19 cases. DeWine deploys more Ohio National Guard to assist at hospitals

Gov. Mike DeWine conducts a remote press conference about the ongoing COVID pandemic on December 29, 2021. [The Ohio Channel]
Gov. Mike DeWine stands at a podium surrounded by the American flag and flag of Ohio

Wednesday 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.

Ohio's COVID-19 case count for Dec. 29, 2021 [Ohio Dept of Health]

Ohio's hospitals report being understaffed to serve the crush of patients they are caring for in their facilities. The Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Robert Wyllie said more than 3,000 people are hospitalized in the Northern zone where Cleveland is located, the highest ever in the zone. The clinic itself has more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, Wyllie said. Of those, 210 are in the ICU, and more than 2,700 workers there are out with COVID right now.

Gov. Mike DeWine is authorizing another 1,250 members of the Ohio National Guard to assist at hospitals, most to northern Ohio where he says officials have told him they are desperately needed.

“We are going to be guided by where they are needed the most today,” DeWine said at a Wednesday press briefing. “And so two weeks from now it may be different. It may be different two days or three days from now.”

DeWine began deploying guard members Friday to assist hospital systems. There are currently 460 Ohio National Guard in Cleveland, 160 in Toledo, and 100 in Columbus. Others are in the process of being deployed to Mansfield, Dayton, and Lima.

[Dan 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 Jun. 1, 2021, DeWine said 35,962 people have been admitted to hospitals with COVID-19. Of those, 2,687 were fully vaccinated.

Ohio is experiencing high demand for COVID-19 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. Thirty-six percent of the tests conducted at that site have come back positive, Wyllie said.

State health leaders say the record-high number of positive cases is lower than the actual number. The number reflects the results of tests taken at clinics and pharmacies which are automatically reported to the state. They do not include at-home test results, which are not required to be 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 said.

Those who test positive at home often decide to stay away from others, preventing more spread of the virus, DeWine said. Rapid tests are reported to be in short supply right now as stock is quickly depleted from local libraries.

No word on when new stock will become available.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.