More National Guard members to be deployed to Springfield to help with COVID-19 testing

Renee Steele, from the Clark County Combined Health District, hands off a COVID test to SFC David Wallace of the Army National Guard so he can check it Tuesday at the COVID Testing Center on East High Street. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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Renee Steele, from the Clark County Combined Health District, hands off a COVID test to SFC David Wallace of the Army National Guard so he can check it Tuesday at the COVID Testing Center on East High Street. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

More Ohio National Guard members are being allocated to Springfield as part of a larger push to support COVID-19 testing sites and tackle other needs in this part of the state heavily impacted by the virus.

The National Guard will be used at a testing location in Springfield at 2501 E. High St., that has been led by the Clark County Combined Health District and the City of Springfield.

On Monday, approximately 10 Ohio National Guard members arrived at the Coronavirus Testing Evaluation Center in Springfield to offer support as a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has led to an increase demand for those services.

The testing site is located at the former Community Mercy Occupational Health and Medicine building and had been established earlier on in the pandemic.

As the omicron variant continues to spread, the Ohio National Guard presence will allow the site to double or triple its testing capacity, said Nate Smith, a Communications Coordinator for the Clark County Combined Health District.

How long the guard will be at the testing site, will largely depend on the demand for those testing services, Smith said, noting that members of the Ohio National Guard would likely be there at least until mid February.

That recent deployment follows a shift in national guard resources across the state.

Some resources have been reallocated from counties that have seen a decrease in the demand for COVID-19 testing in order to support harder hit areas as there has been a surge in new cases driving hospitalizations and ICU admissions in the state this month to their highest levels throughout the pandemic.

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Testing sites at the Stark County Fairgrounds in Canton, the Walker Center in Cleveland and Summit County’s drive-thru testing location in Akron all closed either over the weekend or earlier this month due to a decrease in testing demand in those areas, according to the Ohio National Guard.

“Resources from closed testing locations are being shifted to support area hospitals or other Guard missions in other parts of the state. The Guard is offering support in every region of Ohio, whether for testing site support, or clinical or non-clinical support in hospitals,” said a Monday news release from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.

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The Ohio National Guard currently has 13 medical teams, roughly 130 Guard members, and 180 support teams, roughly 1,800 Guard members, deployed in the state. Of those support teams, 24 of them or roughly 240 Guard members are providing support at 18 testing centers in the state.

The news of guard members being deployed at a testing site in Springfield follows the arrival of troops last week to Mercy Health-Springfield Regional Medical Center. That included 20 clinical and non-clinical guard members to support healthcare teams and providers, according to Mercy Health.

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