Amid its deployment to assist healthcare professionals during a surge of COVID-19 cases in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) says he’s not happy with the vaccination numbers among the state’s National Guard.
“This is a high-risk operation, you need to be protected,” DeWine said in a Thursday visit with National Guard members. “The best way for you to be protected is to get the vaccination. So, look, we’re not happy with where we are. We’re going to continue to push that with our troops.”
“All of us depend on our hospitals to protect us, and now the National Guard is involved in protecting our hospitals,” he continued.
About 56 percent of National Guardsmen in Ohio are fully vaccinated.
The 44 percent who are unvaccinated will not be sent to hospitals unless they change their minds and take the jab.
DeWine’s office did not return a Friday comment request.
National Guard members will provide assistance to healthcare facilities. Specifically, their mission is to assist at COVID-19 testing sites and “work to decompress high volumes at hospitals, providing direct clinical care and non-clinical support.”
The latest mobilization includes 1,500 troops, bringing the total number of Ohio National Guardsmen deployed to Ohio’s hospitals to 2,300.
Adjutant General Major General John Harris Jr., commanding officer of the mission, also weighed in on the vaccination situation among his troops. He largely agreed with DeWine.
“I would never put a soldier or airman in harm’s way without the best protection we could put on them—body armor, helmets—and this medical readiness is the exact same thing,” he said. “We’re putting folks into harm’s way.”
But he also conceded that taking the vaccine is a personal choice.
“I certainly don’t want to vilify the people who aren’t taking the vaccine,” he said. “I am disappointed that there’s so much conflicting information that makes a very difficult decision.”
COVID-19 cases attributed to the Omicron variant of the virus have surged over the past few weeks.
According to Ohio’s latest COVID-19 data, average daily cases have reached an all-time high. Still, COVID-19 deaths have remained relatively low compared to the summer surge of attributed to the Delta variant.
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