People Turned Away at COVID Testing Site, Cars Awaiting Tests Impede Traffic in Cleveland

A drive-through COVID testing site operated by the National Guard in Cleveland, Ohio was forced to turn away cars three hours after it opened because the line of cars waiting affected traffic in downtown Cleveland on Tuesday.

The testing site was opened at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning in a garage on the Cleveland Clinic campus. By noon new entrants to the line had to be turned away so testing could be completed by 5 p.m., a Cleveland Clinic spokesperson told The Associated Press.

Major General John Harris Jr. said the line of cars was long enough to impede traffic going toward downtown Cleveland and said the same site will be open for testing Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County, which houses Cleveland, has reported a rising rate of per capita COVID cases in recent weeks, currently sitting at 199 cases per 100,000 residents

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called just over 1,000 National Guard members to assist health care workers dealing with rising COVID cases in the state, especially in and around northeast Ohio.

Harris said about 150 medical personnel from the National Guard and 900 other members will begin their assignments in affected hospitals Thursday, particularly in the Cleveland and Akron-Canton areas.

Cleveland Clinic, COVID Testing, Ohio National Guard
Cleveland Clinic on June 19, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cars coming to a Cleveland Clinic drive-through COVID testing site Tuesday were turned away starting three hours after it opened due to the high demand and line of cars already waiting. Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The general who leads the Ohio National Guard said during a news briefing on Tuesday that just over half of Army National Guard members in the state are fully vaccinated.

Harris said the low vaccination rate degrades "our ability to respond with maximum capability." Ohio has the fifth-largest National Guard contingent in the U.S. with more than 11,000 Army National Guard members and nearly 5,000 Air National Guard members.

The U.S. military has set a June 30 deadline for all Army National Guard members to be fully vaccinated. Around 98 percent of active duty Army soldiers were fully vaccinated ahead of a Dec. 15 deadline.

Harris has set a March 31 deadline for Ohio Army National Guard members to be fully vaccinated. Ohio National Guard spokesperson Stephanie Beougher said Harris set the earlier deadline to increase the Guard's readiness and for the safety of its members.

Nationally, just over 61 percent of Army National Guard members are fully vaccinated and over 68 percent have received at least one dose, according to the National Guard Bureau.

Around 92 percent of Ohio Air National Guard members are vaccinated, Harris said. They faced a Dec. 2 deadline to be fully vaccinated.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 7,493.29 new cases per day on Dec. 5 to 9,741.86 new cases per day on Dec. 19, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

4,797 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state as of Tuesday, the Health Department said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.