Saying Ohio might need two or three times the number of hospital beds the state currently has to address the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine has asked the National Guard to evaluate locations in the state that could act as expanded medical facilities.
Liaison officers from the Ohio National Guard and additional service members with special training in engineering and construction will assess a variety of sites, ranging from unused state-owned facilities and commercial buildings to hotels and dormitories.
During DeWine’s Friday afternoon press conference, Maj. Gen. John Harris, Ohio’s adjutant general, said that this process may look different than it has in other states. Harris said Ohioans may not see new construction, but instead may see larger, existing facilities being equipped for patients with things like partitions and supplies.
Harris said the sickest patients would go to acute care hospitals. These alternate medical facilities would be for taking care of the less-sick patients, he said.
“One advantage that we have is that we have a three or four week look at what’s coming,” Harris said. “We know what other states have experienced, what other countries have experienced, and we’re applying those lessons that we learned from them doing that to make sure that we provide the best care possible for folks here in Ohio.”
The Ohio National Guard is partnering with the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Emergency Management Agency and the Ohio Department of Administrative Services to assess potential sites.
Ohio Army National Guard Col. Andrew Stone, who is coordinating the assessment teams, said criteria for the alternative medical facilities include proximity to an existing hospital, or a hospital system that wants to use the space to support overflow, and that the space doesn’t require a lot of construction. The teams will also look for spaces that are safe from weather and hazardous conditions, like fire and electrical hazards.
Stephanie Beougher, spokeswoman for the Ohio National Guard, said the National Guard is not able to provide a list of locations being assessed.
The full COVID-19 Regional Hospital Plans, along with any drafts, have significant portions that are exempted from release under Ohio law, for security reasons, Beougher said.
The National Guard will share certain information from each plan when finalized that affects the people in each region so they know what’s happening, Beougher said.
“We are fighting an enemy that just a few short months ago was unknown. We are united with the state in doing our part to help combat the virus, and we are ready to assist with this and other missions as is needed,” Harris said.
DeWine has also asked members of the National Guard to help in other ways during the coronavirus crisis.
About 500 Ohio National Guard and Ohio Military Reserve members are sorting, packing and delivering food to those in need. Across the state, members of the National Guard are helping 12 food bank warehouses, which provide food to Ohioans in all 88 counties. Locally, 25 Ohio National Guard members are helping the Foodbank in Dayton.
To date, the soldiers have distributed more than 2.4 million pounds of food across Ohio.
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