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U.S. Air Force medical teams have arrived at the Cleveland Clinic to help care for COVID-19 patients

Members of the U.S. Air Force arrived at the Cleveland Clinic Wednesday to shore up the health system that was battered by the omicron-fueled surge. [Cleveland Clinic]

Members of the U.S. Air Force medical team including nurses, doctors and respiratory specialists have arrived at the Cleveland Clinic to help shore up the health system that has been battered by the recent surge in COIVD-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant.

“They arrived safely yesterday,” said Dr. Alice Kim, medical director for medical operations at the Cleveland Clinic during a press conference Thursday. “They are undergoing orientation and will be up on the clinical floors in the next day or so.”

The decline in infections and hospitalizations in the area is reason for optimism, but underscores that the virus is still putting incredible pressure on the health system and its workers.,Kim said.

There has been a “25% decrease in hospitalizations in the zone and region,” Kim said. “But we have to remember that that number is still very high.”

At the peak of the omicron surge there were 1,200 people hospitalized with COVID-19, Kim said.

The Air Force medical team will help the clinical staff care for the 700 people who are currently hospitalized across the system with COVID-19 and will allow Cleveland Clinic to accept transfers from other facilities in the region, Kim said.

The medical team is part of the force that President Joe Biden sent to hospitals across the country to help relieve weary hospital workers. Biden announced last week 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 U.S. Air Force medical team is arriving just as the Ohio National Guard announced that it will be redeploying the about 400 National Guard members that have been supporting hospitals in Northeast Ohio to hospitals in southwestern Ohio, said Major General John C. Harris, Jr. of the National Guard.

The omicron-fueled surge that struck Northeast Ohio shortly before Christmas has begun to abate and but is now intensifying near Dayton and Cincinnati.

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.
Lisa Ryan is a health reporter at Ideastream Public Media.