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Guard may be called again for pandemic aid

Ohioans know they always can count on the National Guard in a variety of emergencies — floods, tornadoes, pandemics … bus driver shortages.

Actually, the shortage of school bus drivers is a result of the pandemic. In the Euclid City School District, for instance, 25 percent of bus drivers are out because of either a COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine protocols after exposure. That left the superintendent in a bind when First Student, the contractor that provides drivers, called to say there was a problem.

That set in motion a chain of communication that led all the way up to Gov. Mike DeWine, who was asked about the possibility of filling the need with members of the National Guard.

“The Ohio National Guard and Gen. Harris, they’ve been asked to step up and fill the need in critical junctures throughout the pandemic, and I don’t have the ability to authorize the National Guard but the governor does,” said state Rep. Kent Smith, D-Euclid.

It is not yet clear whether Ohio National Guard members will be able to help, but the need is urgent.

“It’s a logistical challenge. I don’t know if the national guard is the solution, but at this point I just want to get our kids back to school,” Superintendent Chris Papouras told another media outlet. Without some kind of solution more than 4,000 students in Papouras’ district are still at home.

It is a testament to how much we trust and depend upon our Ohio National Guard that the idea has come to mind in the first place.

During the pandemic, Ohio National Guard has been activated to help in many unique ways, including things like helping at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites, during “unemployment crisis,” helping to process claims throughout the pandemic in Ohio, assisting in prisons and, here in the Mahoning Valley, the National Guard helped to fortify food distribution efforts at Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley. They served here for a full year as food lines remained long.

Indeed, we should be very grateful to be served by such well trained, dedicated men and women.

Still, the need for the Guard is an extremely frightening indication the challenges created by this wave of the pandemic are mounting faster than we can find solutions.

We must do what we can to stop the spread. Our options — including calling in the National Guard — are running out.

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