Ohio hospitals take out newspaper ad begging people to get vaccinated: 'We need you to care as much as we do'

A mass vaccination clinic at Cleveland State University in May. (AP)

Facing an increase in coronavirus cases as the omicron variant rapidly spreads through Ohio, leaders of six health-care facilities in the Cleveland area took out a full-page ad in the state's largest newspaper pleading with residents to get vaccinated.

One word anchors the message: "Help."

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"We now have more COVID-19 patients in our hospitals than ever before," the ad in Sunday's issue of the Plain Dealer says. "And the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated. This is preventable."

It ends with a desperate plea for the attention of a pandemic-fatigued public: "We need you to care as much as we do."

The ad was a collaboration of Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, University Hospitals, Summa Health, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. The six medical systems help care for a population of nearly 2.8 million people in the Cleveland area.

MetroHealth and St. Vincent also posted the messaging from the newspaper ad on social media.

Health-care systems in Minnesota put out a similar ad last week in newspapers across the state. The ad described medical workers as "heartbroken" and "overwhelmed" and called for state residents to get vaccinated against and tested for the coronavirus.

On Sunday, top U.S. health officials made television appearances warning Americans that coronavirus cases are expected to skyrocket as the highly transmissible omicron variant circulates. Omicron could bring the number of cases per day to as many as 1 million, said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's leading infectious-disease specialist, predicted that it will be difficult to keep the coronavirus under control in the United States when there are "about 50 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated."

In Ohio, less than 55 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, and about 36 percent are fully vaccinated with a booster shot. The state has seen a 30 percent increase in coronavirus cases in the past week, according to The Washington Post's tracker. Deaths are up 16 percent.

Armond Budish, the Democratic leader of Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, told reporters at a news conference that more covid patients were hospitalized last week in northeastern Ohio than at any other time since the pandemic began. Many hospitals have put off nonessential surgeries as a result, he said.

"And it's going to get worse," he cautioned. "This is winter in Cleveland, folks."

Budish's warning was prescient: On Friday, two days after he delivered his remarks on Zoom, Cleveland Clinic reported that the omicron variant accounted for about half of its coronavirus-positive tests.

"We are learning this variant is more transmissible, and we are seeing evidence of this by the increased spread in our community," the clinic said in a statement, according to the Plain Dealer.

Even as cases rise, Ohio is facing a shortage of health workers to provide care. Gov. Mike DeWine, R, announced Friday that he would mobilize over 1,000 members of the Ohio National Guard across the state to help provide relief. Those missions start Monday.

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