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Feds send help to the Cleveland Clinic while Ohio shifts resources to combat COVID in other areas

Ohio National Guard waiting for hospital deployment 010621 - KASLER.jpeg
Karen Kasler
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Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio National Guard members waiting to be deployed to different hospitals around the state.

It's part of what's being called a "lift and shift" strategy.

The White House announced 1000 military medical personnel will go to Ohio and five other states in the coming days. Ohio Dept of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says some of them will be providing additional medical staff for the Cleveland Clinic.

“The Cleveland Clinic will be receiving federal assistance from a team of 20 U.S. Air Force medical professionals. That team will include nurses, physicians, and respiratory therapists,” Vanderhoff says.

More than 2000 Ohio National Guard members are currently helping out at the Cleveland Clinics as well as hospitals and COVID testing sites throughout Ohio. Ohio Adjutant General Major General John Harris Jr says Ohio National Guard members are working in teams so they can be quickly lifted and shifted to where they are most needed as the COVID surge progresses in Ohio.

Ohio National Guard members helping out at Ohio State University hospitals
Ohio State University
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Ohio State University
Ohio National Guard members helping out at Ohio State University hospitals

Meanwhile, the new Ohio Department of Health protocol dictates rapid at-home COVID tests to K-12 schools and colleges instead of being distributed free of charge to communities through libraries and health departments. State leaders say the change is being made so schools can continue to provide in-person learning for students. This decision comes as the Ohio Department of Education reports on its dashboard that less than a third of Ohio’s schools are currently requiring ALL of their students to wear masks.

Mask policies as of Jan 6, 2022 in K-12 public schools
Ohio Department of Education
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Ohio Department of Education
Mask policies as of Jan 6, 2022 in K-12 public schools

When asked if schools would be better served by receiving high-quality masks, and requiring students and staff to wear them, instead of diverting at-home test kits away from the larger community, Ohio Dept of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says the state has been supplying schools with thousands of masks. And he says ODH strongly recommends school districts require students and staff to wear them, even though more than half of the state's school districts do not require all students to be masked in their buildings. But right now, given the shortage of at-home test supplies nationwide, he says it makes sense to pull the at-home tests from the community to give to schools.

“Layered strategies are the best strategy. You know a mask is not perfect. A test is often not perfect. But when you apply the tools that we have together, you are often able to achieve a more substantial result than if we were doing it in isolation,” Vanderhoff says.

Drive through COVID testing in Columbus
Daniel Konik
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Vanderhoff says the community should rely on at-home tests that can be purchased in pharmacies or get tested with PCR tests at one of the mass testing sites statewide. Medical professionals say the PCR tests are regarded as more comprehensive and reliable but it takes longer to get the results. However in recent weeks, labs have been taking steps to speed up the processing. The Biden administration has made a change to make at-home tests purchased from pharmacies more affordable for many. Beginning Saturday, private insurers will be required to cover at-home tests purchased in pharmacies but there will be a limit of 8 tests per month per insured person.

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