(WDTN) — Dozens of National Guard members were deployed Thursday to help hospitals across Ohio. They are part of an additional 1,250 guard members mobilized to help curb the spike of COVID-19.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Adjutant General Major General John C. Harris, Jr. held a small news conference Thursday, January 6 to send off a group of National Guard members.

“The National Guard throughout this pandemic has played an absolutely crucial role,” Gov. Mike DeWine said.

So far, Gov. DeWine mobilized a total of 2,300 members to assist hospitals struggling during the most recent surge of COVID-19.

“All of us depend on our hospitals to protect us, and now our National Guard is involved in protecting our hospitals and enabling them to continue to protect all of us,” Gov. DeWine explained.

The second wave of deployment will be working to increase capacity at hospitals by helping staff and providing COVID-19 testing support. That support is coming to Clark County. Charles Patterson, the Health Commissioner for Clark County Combined Health, said the National Guard will help expand the county’s testing efforts.

“Helping enhance the testing, making sure we can provide testing so that people are not seeking testing at the emergency department. The hospitals are already very busy and that’s a way for us to take some of that load off of the local hospital,” Patterson said.

Taking some of the burden off hospitals is crucial right now. According to Sarah Hackenbracht, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, the Miami Valley surpassed its December 2020 peak. There are now 540 people hospitalized in the Dayton area, 96 people are in the ICU, and 85 are on ventilators.

“So that sheer volume of patients is truly challenging our hospitals and can start to jeopardize our care that is provided across our region,” Hackenbracht explained.

Once the members of the National Guard arrive, Clark County Combined Health, in partnership with Springfield Regional Medical Center, will be able to provide COVID-19 testing five days a week.