National Guard troops mobilized to fill hospital vacancies amid COVID surge

Ohio Governor Mike Dewine (R) has called up over 1,000 National Guard troops across the state to staff state-run hospitals dealing with labor shortages and a surge in COVID-19 patients as well as pausing the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. 

Dewine said Friday that 150 of the troops are medical professionals that can directly provide care at hospitals and COVID testing sites.

The other approximately 900 troops will be helping with logistical shortages like patient transports and meal distribution, he said.

“Earlier in the pandemic, our concern was about beds, about space,” DeWine said at press conference Friday. “Today, it is about personnel.”

Vaccine mandate paused

Hospitals in the state have now paused their vaccine mandates to help keep as many staff as possible, as well as to see what happens with national mandates that have been paused and restarted in the courts.

President Joe Biden’s national vaccine mandate for healthcare workers was just reinstated by an appeals court for part of the country, but will end up before the Supreme Court soon, it is expected.

The OhioHealth network of hospitals have seen a more than 50% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past 60 days. ICU patients have also increased 30%, and one in four patients in the ICUs are currently COVID-19 positive and receiving COVID-19 treatment, according to John Palmer, OHA director of Media and Public Relations.

Palmer also reported that many hospital employees are experiencing burnout after 22 months of repeated COVID-19 surges.

Omicron hospitalization looks to decrease

So far in South Africa, hospitalization rates amid the omicron variant have plunged to 1.7% of infected patients, compared to 19% of delta patients at the same point in that surge. The lower numbers come despite a five-fold increase in cases compared to delta.

Bloomberg pointed out that South Africa’s population is young compared to other countries, so their experience may be unique.

It is still too early to tell whether omicron will be as mild for those over 65.

However, taking steps that will curtail or harm a recovering economy like further shutdowns or vaccine mandates would not be a wise response if the variant only impacts unvaccinated elderly people severely but is mild for everyone else.

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